The Middle East powder keg is becoming an even greater danger spot as more and more missiles, many of them capable of carrying nuclear warheads, are being sold to not only Iran and Iraq, but to nearly a dozen other countries in the area.

While American officials express increasing alarm about the proliferation of such weapons, they acknowledge that little can be done to slow their spread. Many of these missiles - which are capable of carrying chemical weapons in addition to nuclear warheads - have ranges of nearly 2,000 miles.Ten Mideast nations now possess a total of at least 1,200 surface-to-surface missiles, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, and the area has become the world's most active market for missiles.

The ballistic missile has become the region's latest military status symbol and nations there are racing to develop their own home-brewed weapons with the aid of technicians from Argentina, Brazil, India, China and West Germany.

That's frightening in a region roiling with hatreds, passions, and a frequent lack of logic or restraint.

Last year, the United States and six of its allies announced a program to stop the spread of missile technology. Known as the Missile Technology Control Regime, the agreement was signed by the United States, Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada.

Despite the agreement, nearly all observers expect more and more missiles - with even more accuracy and deadliness - will be stockpiled.

India, Brazil and Argentina, which are supplying missile technology to other developing nations, are also thought to have programs to produce nuclear weapons. Argentina is aiding Egypt's efforts to develop 500-mile-range Condor missiles. Brazil reportedly will make available to Libya its MB-EE series missile which can carry a 1-ton warhead up to 600 miles. And India, which has a sophisticated space launch and rocketry capability, will soon begin exporting missiles with ranges of up to 1,500 miles.

The world has focused on recent arms limitation talks and agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union. Deliberations should not stop with just these two countries, but should include all nations that have nuclear capabilities.

Missile technology, for too many, is just a lucrative business. It is more than risky business. It is deadly business that can not remain unharnessed.