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Star Wars II?

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The New York Times revealed yesterday that the US Air Force is lobbying president Bush to approve a national security directive which "could move the United States closer to fielding offensive and defensive space weapons".

According to the paper, a senior administration official confirmed that the USAF is looking for a new directive to replace 1996 Bill Clinton legislation which put the emphasis on a "less aggressive" policy of deploying spy satellites - rather than pursuing Ronald Reagan's ultimately ill-fated "Star Wars" programme.

Indeed, the NYT says that the Pentagon has already ploughed billions into developing space weapons and plans to get them into orbit - with little public debate - and that the details of the new directive are still under review and tight wraps.

However, Air Force spokeswoman Major Karen Finn claimed: "The focus of the process is not putting weapons in space. The focus is having free access in space." Nicely put. We look forward to the USAF using its new-found freedom to get on with what has always actually topped its agenda: building orbiting low-cost public housing, hospitals and orphanages without a ICBM-busting satellite-mounted laser weapon in sight.

An final announcement on the presidential directive is expected in the next few weeks. ®

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