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Danish PM Rasmussen appointed new NATO SecGen

Video by Yuka ROYER

Latest update : 2009-04-04

Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been named to be new NATO secretary general. Earlier on Saturday, alliance leaders crossed over a bridge from Germany to Strasbourg, France, kicking off the second and last day of the NATO summit.

Reuters - NATO named Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as its next leader on Saturday after overcoming Turkish resistance to his appointment.

Turkey's objections to Rasmussen, tied to his handling of a 2006 crisis over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper, had threatened the image of unity NATO had sought to present at the military alliance's 60th anniversary summit.

"I am deeply honoured to be appointed as the next secretary-general of NATO and I will do my utmost to live up to the confidence shown to me by my colleagues," said Rasmussen, who will replace Dutchman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Aug. 01.

Speaking alongside Rasmussen, Scheffer added: "You know that there have been discussions over the past 36 hours, but the fact that we are standing here next to each other means a solution has been found also for the concerns expressed by Turkey, and we all very much agree and are unanimous."

Violent clashes between police and anti-NATO protesters clouded the atmosphere at the summit, where U.S. President Barack Obama, on his first trip to Europe, tried to drum up support for the Afghan war and leaders.

Protesters set ablaze a former frontier post on the Franco-German border and police fired teargas and shock grenades to try to contain the violence. At least 50 people were injured.

Rasmussen had in 2006 defended the publication of the cartoons, which caused protests in the Muslim world, on the grounds of free speech and refused to apologise to Muslim countries.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had urged NATO to look for alternatives to Rasmussen. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi spoke to Erdogan by telephone on Saturday morning to try to break the deadlock.

In the French city of Strasbourg, where the 28 NATO leaders were holding the second day of a summit, U.S. President Barack Obama had private talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Rasmussen, a Turkish source said. The White House press office said it could not confirm whether such a meeting took place.

NATO members came to the summit in the French city of Strasbourg and German towns of Kehl and Baden-Baden hoping to forge a new strategic vision for an alliance that was created soon after World War Two to defend Europe's borders.

The group has expanded to 28 nations since then despite the demise of its first foe, the Soviet Union, but is struggling in Afghanistan, seven years after U.S.-backed forces toppled the Taliban following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Date created : 2009-04-04