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Daily Archives: April 4, 2009

Turkish PM dampens Rasmussen’s NATO hopes

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday he was opposed to Danish counterpart Anders Fogh Rasmussen's bid for NATO's top job because he doubted he could contribute to global peace.
His vocal objections came after reports that Rasmussen officially announced his candidacy to be NATO's next secretary general at a meeting in Brussels late Thursday, and shortly before NATO leaders were to meet at a summit in France.
Erdogan said Rasmussen failed to act on Turkish requests to ban a Denmark-based TV station linked to Kurdish rebels and criticised his stance during the crisis over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, published in Denmark in 2005.
"How can those who have failed to contribute to peace, contribute to peace in the future? We have doubts… and my personal opinion is negative," he said at a conference in London.
Turkey has long urged Denmark to ban Roj TV, arguing it is the mouthpiece of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a deadly 24-year separatist campaign in Turkey's southeast and is listed as a terrorist group by much of the international community.
"NATO is an institution supposed to guarantee peace, but the media outlet of the terrorist organisation in my country is Denmark-based," Erdogan said.
"We have asked them many times to stop it, but he [Rasmussen] could not or did not do that… How is this supposed to be keeping peace?" he said.
 Erdogan said he had also asked Rasmussen to convene a meeting with the ambassadors of Muslim countries in Copenhagen at the time of the crisis over the Prophet Mohammed's cartoons, which led to widespread outrage and even bloodshed in the Muslim world.
"Unfortunately, there was not a positive approach on that either," he said.
Erdogan has earlier said that Islamic countries are also pressing Turkey, NATO's sole mainly Muslim member, to veto Rasmussen, over his stance in the cartoon crisis when he invoked freedom of expression to defend the drawings.
The Danish prime minister is a favourite to succeed NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in August, but an unanimous decision is required by the 28 member countries.
Most of the alliance's big powers appear to be solidly behind him, with Turkey seen as a key obstacle.
Heads of state and government from member countries started meeting in Strasbourg, France and in the German towns of Kehl and Baden-Baden yesterday, for a two-day summit marking the 60th anniversary of the Alliance.
Rasmussen has yet to publicly comment on his candidacy, but an announcement could be made at the summit.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who has sounded more reconciliatory on Rasmussen's bid, was to represent Turkey at the summit.
Speaking before flying to France, Gul said Turkey has "a single position" on the matter and hinted the selection process for the next secretary general would be protracted.
"A unanimous decision is required and this can sometimes require a lengthy and painful process… [but] the term of the current secretary general is not expiring tomorrow," Gul told reporters in Ankara.
"What is important for us is not the names but for NATO to be strong and fulfill its missions in the best way," he said.

NATO: Obama pushes Afghan plan

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Barack Obama met his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday ahead of NATO's 60th anniversary summit, at which the US president will drum up support for his new Afghan war strategy.
The city of Strasbourg on France's frontier with Germany was under security lockdown as 28 NATO leaders began to arrive following a day of clashes between protesters and French riot police that led to 300 arrests.
On his first European tour since being elected president, Obama held bilateral talks with Sarkozy and was also to see Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany ahead of the summit proper.
Eager photographers were treated to the first meeting between the world's most famous first ladies, Obama's wife Michelle and Italian-born model-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
The presidential couple was welcomed to the Rohan Palace by Sarkozy and his wife and the leaders shook hands with well-wishers on the red carpet before inspecting an honour guard and standing to attention to the national anthems.
Pleasantries exchanged, the main business of the summit will be a debate on tactics in Afghanistan, where NATO troops are battling a tenacious insurgency, and also updating the Atlantic Alliance's global strategy for the 21st century.
As if to underline the urgency of the review, a soldier in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan was killed yesterday and another wounded in a "hostile incident", the military said in Kabul.
There was trouble too in France, where police confirmed 300 suspects had been arrested overnight as protesters clashed with the 10,000-strong force manning the security cordon around the Strasbourg venue.
NATO, the world's most powerful military alliance, was formed in 1949 and has since grown to 28 members after absorbing many former Warsaw Pact foes.
The formal meetings on Saturday will be dominated by the mission in Afghanistan, where 70,000 troops – mostly under NATO command – are at war.
Obama will use the summit to showcase a new Afghan war plan and to enlist support from sometimes sceptical European allies for a renewed effort to crush Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Afghanistan should not be or become President Obama's conflict, it should be a joint effort for all of the allies," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told CNN as Airforce One landed in Strasbourg.
"All allies should step up to the plate, and if that's not military, then on the civilian side," he added.
 Washington has decided to send 21,000 extra US troops and is considering deploying 10,000 more, while asking the allies to contribute more of their own soldiers and civilian support staff.
Obama's predecessor George W. Bush struggled to convince reluctant European allies to increase their commitment, but the new US national security adviser predicts that NATO is now ready.
"It would be wrong to conclude that we will not get any contributions, either manpower or resources, because I think that's not going to be the case," General James Jones said in a conference call Thursday with reporters.
 The summit will also debate whether and how to thaw ties with Russia, frozen after its war against Georgia in August and will discuss who will replace Scheffer when he steps down in July.
The frontrunner to take up the role is Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, despite opposition from Turkey, a major NATO ally.
Ankara was angered that Rasmussen failed to act on its request to close down a Denmark-based TV station linked to Kurdish rebels and criticised his stance during the crisis over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
"How can those who have failed to contribute to peace, contribute to peace in the future? We have doubts… and my personal opinion is negative," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday.

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