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RUSSIA, CHINA CALL FOR BAN ON SPACE WEAPONS

China and Russia renewed their push for a global ban on arms in space at a disarmament conference Tuesday with a proposal opposed by Washington on the grounds it is directed at U.S. military technology.

The proposal, which includes banning defensive missile shields, contrasts with a U.S. plan that urges countries to agree to halt the production of material needed for making atomic warheads.

Neither plan appears to have any chance of gaining the full support of the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, and the split is threatening hopes of reviving the disarmament process, which has stalled since the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1996.

"Russia is of course dissatisfied," said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "The substantive work of the conference has been blocked for 10 years now."

Washington calls the proposal a diplomatic ploy by Russia and China to gain a military advantage because it would prohibit an American missile interceptor system from being installed in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The Bush administration has stymied the Sino-Russian proposal since it was first raised in 2002, two weeks after the United States withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

"Routine" flyover: The United States and Russia on Tuesday played down a weekend flyover by Russian bombers of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific, with Moscow defending the move as routine and the Americans saying it was not provocative.

Putin's warning: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned Ukraine against joining NATO and said Moscow could aim its nuclear warheads at the former Soviet republic if it ever deployed missile defense systems on its territory.

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