14th May 2021

Danish leader gets backing for NATO top job

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen (l) could suceed Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (r) at the helm of NATO. (Photo: NATO)

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is likely to become the next NATO secretary general, despite Turkey's informal opposition to the move.

The 56-year old leader, who over the weekend became a grandfather, is also said to have the backing of Great Britain, Germany and France.

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Canadian defence minister Peter MacKay, who was thought to have Washington's support for the NATO leadership, on Sunday said that he was more focused "at home" on continuing reforms of the armed forces and the mission in Afghanistan.

"Just the fact that our country is being considered speaks for the recognition of what we do," Mr MacKay said at a press conference on the margins of the Brussels Forum, an event organised by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a Washington-based think tank.

But he also said that "Canada is interested in all aspects of NATO, including its leadership" and that the nationality of the candidate should not be an issue.

US congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, also present at the press conference, called Mr McKay "a star" and paid tribute to the efforts Canada was making for the Alliance. However, she pointed out that she was not speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, although she will soon leave Congress and join the government as an undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs.

A US diplomatic source told EUobserver that Washington was not officially backing any of the candidates, but suggested that Mr Rasmussen had more of a chance. "We don't want Canada to feel discriminated against," the diplomat said.

Turkish opposition

Meanwhile, Turkey, also a NATO member, has signalled that it will oppose Mr Rasmussen's bid due to the way he managed the row following a Danish newspaper's cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, particularly his refusal to see Muslim ambassadors.

Ankara also fiercely opposes the Danish-based Kurdish television station Roj-Tv and was upset by Mr Rasmussen's comments in 2003 saying that Turkey would never become a full EU member.

A Turkish official told Reuters that his country was willing to veto Mr Rasmussen's bid. The decision can be only taken by consensus amongst the 26 NATO members and is expected to be announced at the alliance's 60 anniversary summit in Strasbourg/Kehl on 2-4 April.

Turkish opposition could be overcome as part of a deal with Washington, which asked Ankara to send troops to be part of the NATO operations in Afghanistan, a move which would pose diplomatic problems for Turkey and other Muslim countries.

If Ankara does not oppose Mr Rasmussen, it is said US President Obama will in turn drop his demand for Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan.

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