Text size

STRASBOURG, France - NATO leaders appointed Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO's 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.

Israeli officials here expressed their satisfaction at Rasmussen's appointment, noting that he has taken a very friendly approach to Israel in the past few years.

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 told reporters 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," U.S. President Barack Obama said after the meeting.

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.

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 against 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.

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 that he viewed Turkey as a bridge to the Islamic world.

"A dialogue with the Muslim world is important," he said.

De Hoop Scheffer's term runs out August 1.