TOKYO (AP) _ A Japanese physicist who worked on a secret atomic bomb project during World War II said today that unlike many American scientists, he and his colleagues had no ethical reservations about the inevitable civilian deaths.

``We had no doubts about using it if we could. No one ever contemplated how terrible it would be. We were just doing our best to put it together,'' said Tatsusaburo Suzuki, 83.

Suzuki was part of a 50-man team that worked near Tokyo on atomic bombs that were to be dropped on American targets. The team worked from 1940 up to Japan's surrender five years later.

But they didn't have as good facilities or as large a budget as American scientists, and never succeeded in developing a bomb.

``Our theoretical physics was very advanced,'' Suzuki said. ``I was confident at the time we could have built a bomb if we had better equipment.''

Americans found evidence of the atomic bomb project after the war and dumped research materials into Tokyo Bay. But few Japanese have provided detailed descriptions of the program, and Suzuki's account, given at a news conference, was especially candid.

Suzuki said he had no ethical concerns about the bomb until he visited the wreckage left by American bombs that destroyed Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki three days later. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed outright or died from the effects.

``After seeing that destruction, I am of the firm opinion that atomic weapons should not have been used,'' he said. ``If you saw the women and children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki dying, weeping for water, you would feel the same way.''

A gentle, white-haired man who became a teacher and a college dean after Japan's surrender, Suzuki has been mostly silent about the atomic project since the war.

He was not clear about his reasons for calling a news conference now, almost 50 years after the end of the war, to describe in detail the effort the build an atomic bomb.

Japanese officials had discussed targets including U.S. air bases around the Pacific that were being used to bomb Japanese cities, Suzuki said.

He said because the bomb was never fully developed, the plans were never finalized, but added he believed all targets would have been military.

The project was sponsored by the imperial household and members of Japan's imperial family had visited the facility to inspect and encourage the research, Suzuki said. But he insisted the emperor did not know about it.