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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
Dutchman to head Nato
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: "Superbly qualified"
Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has been named as the new secretary general of the Nato military alliance.

He replaces the UK's George Robertson, who is standing down in December after four years in the post.

Mr De Hoop Scheffer, 55, of the Dutch Christian Democrat party, has pledged to modernise the alliance.

The enemy is international terrorism, the enemy is instability, the enemy is insecurity
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
In an interview with the BBC's Newsnight programme, he rejected criticism that Nato has become irrelevant.

"The alliance is as relevant and alive and kicking as ever. The only thing is that the international security surroundings and scene and structure have changed drastically and dramatically," he said.

"The enemy is not the traditional enemy any more, but the enemy for instance is international terrorism, the enemy is instability, the enemy is insecurity, that is the reason why NATO is in Afghanistan, why NATO is supporting the Polish division in Iraq. That is the new enemy," he said.

Career diplomat

Mr De Hoop Scheffer saw off a challenge from Canada's candidate, John Manley, who failed to win enough support from European nations and withdrew his candidacy earlier on Monday.

Amsterdam-born Mr De Hoop Scheffer was a senior diplomat before entering parliament in 1986.

After senior positions in the offices of four foreign ministers, he took the post himself in July 2002.

The father-of-two, who once served as a reserve officer in the Dutch Air Force, he is the third Dutchman to serve as Nato's secretary general.

Lord Robertson, who announced his intention to leave the post earlier this year, had said a decision on his replacement was needed quickly.

Nato has been evolving from a Cold War-era defensive bloc into global security organisation, and its forthcoming expansion will include seven former communist states from Eastern Europe.

Transatlantic strains

Fred van Staden, head of the Clingendael Institute for Strategic Studies in The Hague, described Mr De Hoop Scheffer as "an extremely talented professional" who could build bridges between the United States and opponents of the war in Iraq, Germany and France.

"He is convinced of the importance of strong relations between the United States and Europe," said Mr Van Staden.

"He is the perfect figure to iron out creases in the Atlantic alliance."

In a statement, Lord Robertson said: "Jaap has a distinguished record as both diplomat and politician that make him superbly qualified to be secretary general...

"As foreign minister, he impressed all his colleagues with his judgment and grasp of the issues...

"I am delighted that we have found the right man to ensure Nato remains the world's most successful defence alliance."

Mr Robertson is to become deputy chairman of the British-based telecoms group Cable and Wireless.

Nato adopts sweeping changes
12 Jun 03  |  Europe
Quick guide: Nato
10 Sep 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Nato
10 Sep 03  |  Country profiles

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