WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. military chief John Shalikashvili said Monday he would try to allay the concerns of opponents of the worldwide ban on nuclear weapons tests in a drive to gain approval of the treaty.

"We know the feelings are very deeply held," Shalikashvili said at a news conference designed to drum up support for the treaty that won the support of only 48 senators, 19 short of the required 67, last October.The former Army general, appointed by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in January to lobby Senate foes, said he would consider all options short of those that would require renegotiating terms of the accord.

"It's important that the world understand we are trying to bridge differences," Shalikashvili said.

Rejection of the treaty was a major foreign policy setback for President Clinton and his administration. Opponents argued safeguards against cheating by other countries were inadequate and that the United States had to continue testing to keep its nuclear arsenal up to date.

Albright said passage was a foreign policy priority and that the treaty was "too important to abandon."

The administration has conceded, however, it could not gain approval this year, its last. The drive is geared to next year, when Clinton will have left office.

"This is not about politics or the legacy of a particular administration," Shalikashvili said.

George W. Bush, the likely Republican presidential candidate, has said he would oppose the treaty while supporting a continuing U.S. voluntary ban on nuclear weapons tests. Ratification would force the United States to conduct foreign policy "with one arm tied behind its back," Bush has said.

Vice President Al Gore, the likely Democratic candidate, called the vote against ratification "breathtakingly irresponsible." He is certain to support Senate approval if he wins.

Shalikashvili was one of a number of U.S. military chiefs whose support for the treaty was cited by the Clinton administration in its bid for ratification.

He and Albright said they hoped that with more time to consider the issues the treaty might be approved. "It's too early to tell," Shalikashvili said.