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DELEGATES AGREE TO SPEED UP OZONE-SAVING EFFORT

Driven by disturbing new evidence of a widening hole in the Earth's ozone layer, representatives of 53 nations agreed Friday to ban major ozone-destroying chemicals by the year 2000.

The deadline, established during a biannual review of an ozone-protection accord by treaty members that ended here Friday, marks a dramatic acceleration in the pact's previously scheduled 50 percent phaseout by 2000.At the same time, delegates agreed to add new chemicals to the restricted list and establish the world's first multilateral fund to help Third World nations cope with a global environmental problem.

During the first three years, the fund will reach as much as $240 million, one quarter of which will be contributed by the United States.

The delegates' actions, which must be formally ratified by their governments, were hailed as a major advance in the worldwide efforts to restore the ozone layer, which scientists warn is being ravaged by manmade chemicals used widely as coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators, in the manufacturing of foam products and as cleaning solvents.

The U.N. conference was also seen as a crucial test of whether countries faced by common global environmental threats but competing domestic interests could effectively deal with still tougher environmental challenges ahead, including global warming.

"We were not simply writing an amended protocol. We were writing a chapter in international relations," a visibly tired but buoyant Mostafa Tolba of the U.N. Environment Program told delegates and observers from nearly 100 countries.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief William K. Reilly, who led the American delegation, called the agreement "a marvelous example of worldwide cooperation without any precedent on an environmental issue."