WASHINGTON (AP) – Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday a resumption of U.S. nuclear testing could not be ruled out forever but there was no need to test now.

“The president has no intention of testing nuclear weapons,” Powell said at a news conference. “We have no need to.”

While the United States and other nuclear powers have a responsibility to keep their nuclear weapons stockpiles safe and reliable, “we see no need to test in order to do that at the moment,” Powell said.

“We can’t rule it out forever,” he said, but “we have no plans to test” and the topic is not likely to be discussed by President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their meeting next month at Camp David in Maryland.

The United States has signed the international treaty to ban nuclear tests, but the Senate refused to ratify it. Bush, like his predecessor, Bill Clinton, has imposed a voluntary moratorium.

Some Bush administration officials have suggested that tests may be necessary if there is a decision to develop new U.S. nuclear weapons.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the private Arms Control Association, said, “It’s useful that the secretary is reinforcing the current commitment to the test ban.”

However, Kimball said in an interview, “That commitment is not solid, given the view of others in the administration that nuclear testing might be needed to develop and produce new types of nuclear weapons.”

He said nuclear testing “definitely should be on the agenda with Russia because the United States and Russia continue to be concerned about activities at each other’s test sites and there is an important opportunity to reach agreement on transparency measures to allay concerns about cheating.”

AP-ES-08-07-03 2133EDT

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