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Amarillo harks Reagan radio talk

President Reagan, in his third weekly radio broadcast April 17, called nuclear war unwinnable and favored ''efforts at negotiations to put an end to this threat of doomsday which hangs over the world.'' But he also said the US must expand its nuclear weapons arsenal to counter the Soviet Union's ''massive arms buildup.''

Probably no other community in the United States listened to Mr. Reagan's remarks more closely than the west Texas town of Amarillo -- site of the government plant that assembles all US nuclear weapons, reports Monitor correspondent Jonathan Harsch.

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For this town of 150,000, the Pantex nuclear-weapons plant provides more and better-paying jobs than any other industry, but it is also is an obvious target in any nuclear controversy.

Amarillo's debate over nuclear weapons began two years ago, when a group of Protestant ministers questioned the town's priorities in outlawing firecrackers while building enough nuclear warheads to blow the world apart many times over. Feelings intensified last August when the area's Roman Catholic bishop entered the debate by suggesting that nuclear-weapons workers ought to consider switching to other jobs.

The bishop's suggestion that it was morally wrong to build nuclear weapons angered many people here who say it is unpatriotic to undermine America's ability to defend the free world. Some suggested the town's antinuclear-weapons movement not only serves Soviet interests, but may be funded by the Soviets.

Local groups calling for a nuclear weapons freeze say the US should take the initiative. But freeze advocates here admit that the vast majority in Amarillo still agrees with President Reagan's conclusion Saturday that ''If steps are not taken to modernize our defenses, the United States will progressively lose the ability to deter the Soviet Union from employing force or threats of force against us or against our allies.''

The President's speech came a day before the antinuclear movement's ''Ground Zero Week'' began. Nationwide observances will include placing a ''ground zero'' marker across the street from the White House.

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