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Germany

German General elected Head of NATO Military Committee

General Harald Kujat, Germany's military reformer and top soldier, has been appointed chairman of NATO's highest military body.

Germany's top uniformed officer, General Harald Kujat was elected chairman of NATO's Military Committee on Tuesday. The military Committee is NATO's highest military executive body.

Kujat will begin with his new post next June, giving up his current job as Germany's military chief

Kujat was picked for the post as German military chief by Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping in June 2000. His predecessor, General Hans-Peter von Kirchbach, resigned last year after only 15 months on the job.

Military Reformer

Kujat began his new post with enthusiasm, driving ahead with Bundeswehr reforms. Kujat focused on changing the role of the Bundeswehr, Western Europe's largest armed forces, from Cold War defence to global crisis management.

Kujat is said to be the most powerful German military chief since World War II.

He repeatedly warned that without more government spending, the Bundeswehr reform would fail.

Despite a 1,5 billion mark ($677 million) annual increase in the defence budget, Kujat's complaints have persisted.

And Kujat has been up for complaints himself lately: Critics say that Kujat's resistance to a further reduction in conscription made the reform plans unfundable from the start, igniting a dissent between Chancellor Schröder and Defence minister Rudolf Scharping.

Michael Naumann, chief editor of Germany's weekly paper Die Zeit wrote: "It is no wonder that Kujat has escaped, that in the midst of a global crisis, the top career soldier in the country is pursuing his career."

But Defence Minister Scharping said that Kujat's election as Military Committee chairman was "a show of confidence in the Bundeswehr".