Danish Prime Minister Confirms Bid for NATO’s Top Job

By Jan M. Olsen | April 3, 2009 | 5:52 AM EDT
Copenhagen (AP) - Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed Friday that he is a candidate for NATO secretary-general, ending weeks of speculation about whether he would seek the alliance's top job.
The 56-year-old Dane infuriated some Muslims by speaking out in favor of freedom of speech during an uproar over Danish publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006. He has also angered Turkey by opposing its membership in the European Union.
NATO leaders are expected to discuss choosing a new secretary-general at a two-day summit in France and Germany starting Friday. The Danish prime minister had been mentioned in speculation as a top candidate to replace outgoing secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, a Dutchman, but he had declined to comment on the subject.
Selecting Fogh Rasmussen may not help NATO effort to rebuild relations with Russia.
Russia's ties with Denmark were badly damaged by the Danish refusal to extradite a top Chechen rebel envoy in the fall of 2002. Rasmussen's government also angered the Kremlin by refusing to cancel an October 2002 conference of rebels and rights activists in Copenhagen held just days after a hostage-taking raid on a Moscow theater.
Vladimir Putin, who was Russian president at the time, responded by canceling his scheduled trip to Copenhagen for a summit with the European Union. The November 2002 meeting was moved to Brussels.
Fogh Rasmussen told his Liberal party colleagues of his decision before he left for the summit, party spokeswoman Inger Stoejberg told Denmark's TV2 News.
"We don't want NATO to be damaged and we don't think it is right that you as prime minister should be damaged in this process," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said about Fogh Rasmussen in March 27 remarks to NTV television.
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