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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK

World: Europe

Robertson starts at Nato

First day at the office: George Robertson at Nato

The new Nato secretary-general, George Robertson, has taken up his post in Brussels.

Lord Robertson, former UK defence secretary, said he could not imagine a much better time to be starting the job as Nato was in "excellent shape".

George Robertson: "The main challenge for Nato is instability in Europe"
The alliance had proved in recent months that it was "fully up" to even the most demanding of the many challenges it faced in the region, he said.

He paid tribute to his predecessor, Spain's Javier Solana, whom he said had successfully steered Nato through some difficult and important times.

Lord Robertson is due to go on to meet ambassadors of the 19 Nato member states and the alliance's senior military and civilian officials.

Kosovo legacy

It was Lord Robertson's performance during the conflict in Kosovo that made him a candidate for the Nato post and it will be the legacy of the air campaign against the Serbs that will dominate his early period in office.

There are now 40,000 troops in the province where tension between Serbs and Albanians remains high.

The Nato campaign also damaged relations with Russia and mending fences with them is expected to be another priority for Lord Robertson.

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