- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

STRASBOURG, FRANCE (AP) - NATO leaders appointed Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO’s new secretary-general Saturday after overcoming Turkish objections to a leader who angered Muslims around the world by supporting the right to caricature the Prophet Muhammad.

NATO’s outgoing head, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said NATO’s 28 member nations reached unanimity after a series of Turkish “concerns” were addressed at the alliance’s two-day, 60th-anniversary summit.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that his government’s requests had included the closure of a Kurdish satellite television broadcaster based in Denmark; the establishment of contacts between NATO and Islamic countries; appointment of a Turk as an aide to Fogh Rasmussen and senior NATO command positions for Turkish generals.

Erdogan said President Barack Obama had been heavily involved in the negotiations.

“Our president gave his approval after receiving information that our reservations have been addressed under the guarantorship of Obama,” Erdogan said. “We hope our concerns will be met.”

Obama said there had been “important efforts to make sure that everyone felt included.”

Fogh Rasmussen told a NATO news conference in Danish that the station, Roj TV, was being investigated to find out whether it has any ties with the Kurdish militant group PKK or has advocated terror attacks, something the station has repeatedly denied.

“If it can be proven that Roj TV is involved in terror activities, we will of course do all we can to shut down the television station,” he said.

“I have not given in to the Turks,” he said on Danish television Saturday evening. “Sometimes it is better to sit face-to-face with people,”

Fogh Rasmussen, 56, has a reputation domestically and internationally as a deft negotiator. He has led a minority government since 2001, and helped raise Denmark’s profile with a strong commitment to European Union cooperation and trans-Atlantic ties. He speaks French fluently, a key requirement in bilingual NATO.

When Europe was split over the Iraq war, he joined President George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” and sent a few hundred Danish troops to help topple Saddam Hussein. But he also criticized the U.S. for the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA prisons. Denmark withdrew its soldiers from southern Iraq in 2007, and boosted its contingent in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, where it has about 700 troops.

Fogh Rasmussen infuriated many Muslims by defending freedom of speech during an uproar over a Danish newspaper’s publication of the cartoons in 2005. He has also angered Turkey by opposing its membership in the European Union.

Turkish leaders argued that Fogh Rasmussen on the grounds that he would be a bad choice at a time when NATO was trying to win support from Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a diplomat from a member country who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Fogh Rasmussen, who stood next to de Hoop Scheffer during the announcement, said he was honored by the decision and would present his resignation to Queen Margrethe on Sunday at the Amalienborg Palace and would recommend that Finance Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen would be appointed as his successor.

De Hoop Scheffer’s term runs out Aug. 1.

The secretary-general’s duties include administering the day-to-day business of the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. The post has in the past been filled in private consultations between member states, and the choices provoked little public interest.

Other possible candidates for NATO’s top post had included Canada’s Defense Minister Peter MacKay, Britain’s former Defense minister Des Browne, and Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

___

Hacaoglu reported from Ankara, Turkey. AP correspondent Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.

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