Residents of this tiny town in northern Maine tonight rejected a bold resolution declaring their town a nuclear-free zone--the same one they approved in March.

"I am not for one minute discouraged by the vote," said Matt Halloran, who initially brought up the issue. "You are never so near to victory as when you are defeated in a good cause."

At its March town meeting, residents voted 48 to 46 to declare Stetson free from production, handling and deployment of nuclear weapons and to adopt a city in the Soviet Ukraine, Stepan.

That vote attracted media attention as far away as Japan and Australia, bringing the town what some residents say was unwanted publicity.

Some residents circulated a petition for a recall vote and today, in what town officials said was Stetson's biggest turnout of voters in two decades, the nuclear resolution was rejected 161 to 96.

The town of 620 is little more than a country crossroads, with the nearest city--Bangor--about 20 miles away.

Julian Orr, a supporter, said he is uncertain if the measure will be reintroduced next year.

"I'm disappointed it didn't pass," Orr said, suggesting that animosity between newcomers and old-line citizens played a part in the defeat.