At their 60th anniversary summit, NATO leaders agreed to appoint Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the Alliance's next Secretary General. He takes up his post on Aug 1, when the term of Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expires. Turkey had threatened to veto Rasmussen's appointment because of his handling of a 2006 crisis triggered by cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper.
Rasmussen previously defended publication of the cartoons, which caused protests in the Muslim world, on the grounds of free speech and refused to apologize to Muslim countries. He has vowed to be more sensitive to religious sensibilities in his new role as NATO chief. "During my tenure as the secretary-general of NATO I will pay close attention to the religious and cultural sensibilities of the different communities that populate our increasingly pluralistic and globalized world," Rasmussen said during a panel discussion at the conference aimed at building bridges between the Muslim world and the West. Rasmussen has sought to placate Muslims by giving Turkey senior posts in the alliance, as he moves to distance himself from a three-year-old row over publication of the cartoons. Apr/09
Date written/update: 2009-01-08