MANCHESTER, N.H., DEC. 31 -- A former governor of New Hampshire urged President Bush today to use nuclear weapons against Iraq.

The call came from three-term former Gov. Meldrim Thomson in a front-page column in the Union Leader, a conservative statewide newspaper.

"Use the Nuclear Bomb," read the headline on the column, a regular Monday opinion feature. "If we are at war now or plan to go to war in the immediate future, then why is it that we hesitate to use against our enemy the most destructive means of assuring his immediate annihilation? Namely, the nuclear bomb," wrote Thomson, 78, governor from 1973 to 1979.

"No nation can invoke the destructive forces of hell for any reason other than to preserve and protect its own people," the column continued. "For us to commit a half million of our best young people to the wages of war, under circumstances guaranteed to destroy and maim thousands of them when we could use our nuclear bombs, without the loss of a single American life, would reveal us as the worst of cowards."

Thomson told Reuters he did not consider his opinion extreme. "No more so than what was done in Japan," he said, referring to the U.S. use of two nuclear weapons against Japan in World War II.