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Europe

Rasmussen named as new NATO chief

NATO leaders agreed unanimously to appoint Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the next head of the 28-member alliance after US President Barack Obama convinced Turkey to drop its objections.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, smiles, as NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, right, reaches out to shake his hand during a media conference at the NATO summit

Rasmussen will head the NATO military alliance starting August 1

Current NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced the nomination on Saturday, April 4, as part of the two-day cross-border NATO summit taking place in Germany and France.

"I will do my utmost to live up to the confidence shown to me by my colleagues," Rasmussen said shortly after being chosen as the next head of the world's largest military alliance.

Rasmussen officially announced his candidacy for the position on Friday and received support from the US and Western European countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has openly endorsed Rasmussen, saying that he will be an "excellent choice" and a "strong secretary general."

He is set to succeed Jaap De Hoop Scheffer on August 1.

US mediation

Turkish President Abdullah Gul

Turkey's President Gul had opposed the nomination

US President Barack Obama was instrumental in ending Turkish obstruction of Rasmussen's appointment, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

Erdogan told Turkish television that Obama had offered Ankara a number of guaranties, which he did not detail.

Western diplomats in Strasbourg agreed that the American president had on his own secured the last-gasp deal to name a successor to the outgoing NATO head.

"The election of Rasmussen was unanimous, but there were important efforts to make sure that everybody felt included," Obama said.

"And I want to thank, in particular, Turkey for raising some concerns having to do with ... security issues, and their confidence that the new secretary general would address them," the US president said.

Turkey had previously opposed the NATO decision, with President Abdullah Gul criticizing Rasmussen's handling of a 2006 crisis over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that appeared in a Danish newspaper.

Rasmussen invoked freedom of expression to defend the publication of the cartoons, which triggered outrage among Muslims worldwide.

High standing

NATO leaders posing for a photo

NATO leaders are happy that Turkey dropped its objections to Rasmussen

Obama's diplomatic success with Turkey only reinforced the US president's already high standing with his allies.

Obama also came away from the summit with additional help in the war in Afghanistan, as allies pledged 3,000 additional troops to secure the upcoming Afghan elections, $100 million (75 million euros) for a fund to support the Afghan army and $500 million for civilian reconstruction.

In addition, a NATO Training Mission was established within the International Security Force (ISAF) that would comprise about 2,000 instructors for Afghanistan's army and police force.

The alliance also determined to improve relations with Russia as the repercussions of last summer's invasion of Georgia by Moscow's armed forces were still being felt.

In its closing declaration, NATO urged Moscow to respect the commitments it made with respect to Georgia in the deal hammered out by then European Union head Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.

The summit officially seated Croatia and Albania as new members and welcomed co-host France back to NATO's military command structure after an absence of 43 years.

nt/rwd/td/glb/tt, ap/afp/dpa

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