U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens blamed "extreme environmentalists" for a lack of growth in Alaska's economy, called Iraqi president Saddam Hussein "a monster" and urged Alaskans to vote for fellow Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski in next week's gubernatorial election.
Stevens' wide-ranging remarks came during an address at the weekly meeting of the Soldotna Cham-ber of Commerce on Tuesday. Traveling with Teamsters Local 959 Secretary-Treasurer Jerry Hood and Cordova Mayor Margy Johnson, Stevens was on the peninsula to attend a rally on behalf of Murkowski in Kenai Tuesday evening.
He said that if elected, Murkow-ski would be in a position to work closely with Alaska's congressional delegation to aggressively develop the state's natural resources.
"We're a resource state," Stevens said, blaming environmental groups for creating "hurdles (Alaskans) have to leap over in order to start new businesses."
He pointed to declines in Alaska's timber and mining industries as examples of environmental groups hampering resource development in the state.
He noted that when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, Alaska produced 1.5 billion board feet of timber each year, in contrast to the state's current output.
"We had a sustainable yield concept of not over cutting our timber," he said. "This last year we cut 100 million board feet."
"We've got to stand up to these extreme environmentalists that have been blocking us at every turn," he said.
Stevens said he was supporting Murkowski's bid for governor in order to provide the state with a solid connection between Alaska's congressional delegation in Wash-ington and the governor's mansion in Juneau.
"One of us will be in Juneau, and the other two will be in Washington. If we don't succeed, turn us all out," he said.
Murkowski's main opponent in the governor's race, Democrat Fran Ulmer, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
In addition to his comments on the governor's race, Stevens gave a brief update of the nation's ongoing war on terrorism. He said there was a need to ensure Saddam Hussein gives up weapons of mass destruction before it's too late. He said he supported President George Bush in his attempt to build a coalition against Iraq to force Hussein to submit to United Nations weapons inspections.
"We now have absolute reason to believe Saddam Hussein has enormous capability for chemical and biological weapons," said Stevens, the ranking member on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcom-mittee.
He said any military move against Iraq might become inevitable if Saddam continues to "stiff arm" international resolutions calling for weapons inspections.
Stevens noted that Iraq continues to shoot at U.S. planes patrolling the northern and southern "no-fly zones" over Iraq, causing a drop in reenlistment among U.S. Air Force pilots.
"They're becoming very offensive," toward U.S. planes, Stevens said, "and no one gives a damn. That's got to stop."
He praised the Bush administration for its tough stand on Iraq, saying Bush is "shaking that cage. Inside that cage is a monster."
He called on U.S. allies, especially France, Russia and Germany to take a similar stand against the Iraqi dictator.
"The world's got to decide what it wants to do about Iraq," Stevens said.
However, Stevens did say the United States wouldn't go it alone if a war on Iraq becomes necessary.
"I don't think we'd attack without a coalition," Stevens said. "I don't expect us to go in and invade and say, 'Come on and join us.'"
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