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Danish PM new NATO boss despite opposition

NATO leaders appointed Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as their new secretary-general yesterday 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.

"Every head of state and government is fully convinced that Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the best choice for NATO," de Hoop Scheffer said at the end of the alliance's two-day, 60th-anniversary summit.

"A solution has been found also for the concerns expressed by Turkey and we are unanimous in this."

"There were important efforts to make sure that everyone felt included," US President Barack Obama said after the meeting in Strasbourg, France.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 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; and senior NATO command positions for Turkish generals.

He said 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."

He appealed for understanding from other NATO members about Turkey's objections to Fogh Rasmussen.

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.

Fogh Rasmussen, who stood next to de Hoop Scheffer during the announcement, said he was honored by the decision.

"I have total understanding for the issues raised by Turkey," Fogh Rasmussen said, adding he viewed Turkey as a bridge to the Islamic world.


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