- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

COPENHAGEN | Finance Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen became Denmark’s prime minister Sunday, replacing his unrelated namesake who was appointed NATO chief, and pledged to do his best to guide the country through the global economic crisis.

Both the Conservatives, his junior coalition partner, and the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, their ally, have given 44-year-old Mr. Lokke Rasmussen their backing, enabling him to take over without calling an election.

Mr. Lokke Rasmussen, one of Denmark’s youngest prime ministers, is expected to continue his predecessor’s pro-growth, tax-cutting policies and inherits the task of leading negotiations for a global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December and steering Denmark through the economic crisis.

“The queen has asked me to form a government with the Liberal Party and the Conservatives, and that is a task I have accepted,” Mr. Lokke Rasmussen told reporters after meeting Queen Margrethe at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen.

He had won the backing of his ruling Liberal Party’s coalition allies to head a new government after Anders Fogh Rasmussen, stepped down to prepare for his new post as secretary-general of the Western military alliance NATO.

In Denmark, the monarch formally appoints the prime minister.

“I will work day and night and use the experience I have gained in more than 20 years in politics to try to guide Denmark through the international crisis,” he said.

The Cabinet will resign, leaving Mr. Lokke Rasmussen free to appoint a new ministerial team. He said he would not make many changes and hoped to complete the Cabinet in the next few days.

Analysts are tipping Mr. Fogh Rasmussen’s key aide and party strategist, Claus Frederiksen, to become finance minister, and his successor will need a new welfare minister to replace Karen Jespersen, who resigned unexpectedly Friday.

After strong growth in 2006 and 2007, Denmark’s economy contracted by 1.1 percent last year and is seen shrinking as much as 3 percent this year.

“It’s going to hurt before it gets better, but if we are careful, we can get through,” Mr. Lokke Rasmussen later told reporters in Graested, North Zealand, where he arrived to celebrate his father’s 75th birthday.

Mr. Fogh Rasmussen was named NATO’s chief after predominantly Muslim Turkey dropped its objections. The outgoing prime minister had defended free speech during the furor over political cartoons in a Danish newspaper depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

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