Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, is leading a drive in Congress to persuade President Bush to support a global ban on all nuclear bomb tests - including those conducted underground in Nevada.

Owens and four other members of Congress wrote fellow members Friday asking them to sign a letter to Bush and to co-sponsor a resolution calling for a comprehensive test ban, which they plan to introduce as soon as Congress convenes on Jan. 3.Owens' letter explained that the countries that signed "the Limited Test Ban Treaty will convene in New York from Jan. 7-18 to consider amending the treaty to prohibit underground nuclear explosions.

"Of the three nations with veto power over the proposed comprehensive test ban amendment, only the Soviet Union pledged to ban all nuclear testing if the United States followed suit. Regrettably, Great Britain and the United States maintain that nuclear testing must continue as long as national security depends on nuclear deterrence."

Owens said a U.S. veto of the comprehensive test ban could jeopardize extension of the separate, nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which expires in 1995. He contends that could ignite another full-scale nuclear arms race.

Also, the letter said, "Iraq's aggressive campaign to develop nuclear weapons, coupled with its demonstrated willingness to use weapons of mass destruction in its arsenal, underscores the vital necessity for American leadership in combatting nuclear proliferation."

Owens' proposed resolution supporting a total test ban also said, "the early prohibition of underground nuclear explosions would constrain the development and deployment of new generations of nuclear arms; reduce reliance upon nuclear arsenals; reinvigorate efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation; and further end radioactive contamination of the environment."

Owens' letter to colleagues also said testing is not as needed now because of improvements in stockpile reliability, security and the ability to simulate nuclear effects without detonating bombs.

The four House members who joined Owens in signing letters trying to attract support for a total ban were: Pat Schroeder, D-Colo.; Bill Green, R-N.Y.; Robert Mrazek, D-N.Y.; and Jim Moody, D-Wisc.