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U.S. must get serious about terrorists, Hatch says

America is too laid-back about the possibility of internal terrorism, according to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Speaking to the Deseret News Editorial Board Friday morning about a variety of timely issues, Hatch said most Utahns are so open and trusting that terrorism is a particular danger here."We've got to be real careful in the (2002) Olympics," he said.

While there may be some talk in Congress of not giving Utah federal funds for Winter Olympics security, Hatch believes it can and will be given, along with needed transportation money.

He predicted that sooner or later, another big terrorist action will take place in the United States.

"We have a potential for some real internal strife in this country."

He hopes the arrests Thursday in Las Vegas of two men suspected of having the germ warfare agent, anthrax, will serve as a wake up call.

Despite that bit of gloom, he said the FBI is on top of things, though there's no way they can prevent everything. Locally, he believes law enforcement is also doing well.

"We've made some real strides crime-wise in this state."

Switching to another type of warfare, he said America has got to do something about the arms buildup in Iraq.

"We can't allow them to build weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Making a specific reference to chemical weapons, he stressed Iraq is not averse to using them.

He said besides needing more international support in this crisis, he's not convinced America's armed forces are capable of sustaining a ground war.

Hatch said every time a Democratic President - at least since Lyndon Johnson - takes power, military readiness in the United States drops. He said America's readiness is now only in the 30 percent range vs. 68 percent under former President Ronald Reagan.

"Personally, I think Saddam (Hussein) will back down in the end - if we show we're serious."

Hatch said another major problem is that Arab nations don't have the confidence that President Clinton will follow through.