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A RESCUE PLEA FOR SPACE STATION

White House Budget Director Richard Darman urged Congress Tuesday to reverse a decision by a House committee to kill the planned space station, warning that the United States risks abandoning its role as a world leader.

Darman's plea to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee came a day after the Bush administration threatened a veto showdown with Congress over a bill terminating the space station and transferring much of the money to environmental, housing and other domestic programs."America is the world's number one politico-economic power, an inspiring beacon of hope," Darman told the lawmakers. "America will not preserve its position - or fulfill its historic responsibility - with shortsighted votes of retreat."

On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to provide none of the $2 billion President Bush requested for next year to build the Earth-orbiting, manned station Freedom. Instead, the panel provided just $100 million to study less expensive alternatives.

In response, Bush sent Darman and NASA chief Richard Truly to the science committee to make the administration's case for the full $2 billion.

The money was part of an $80.9 billion measure for space, housing, veterans and environmental programs for fiscal 1992 that the committee approved on a voice vote. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

In a letter to the appropriations panel's leaders, Darman said Monday that senior administration officials would urge Bush to the veto the bill unless the space station's money is restored.

"Space station Freedom is a critical element in planned future space science and technology programs," Darman wrote. "It is a major contributor to long-term U.S. economic growth; and it is an important element in international cooperation in science and technology."

Japan, the European Space Agency and Canada have pledged a total of $8 billion worth of equipment that is to be attached to the space station.