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Not your light-hearted dinner banter

No decision was reached on the successor to the outgoing NATO secretary-general but tomorrow is another day, a NATO spokesman told journalists on Friday.

The leaders failed to reach a consensus on who would replace Jaap de Hoop Scheffer when his term expires in July. Turkey opposes the candidacy of the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, citing as its main objection Denmark’s handling of the publication of the cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad and strong reaction from other Muslim nations. Rasmussen’s name has been put forward and endorsed by the other countries.

“This is a two-day summit,” said spokesman James Appathurai.  “Let us see what tomorrow will bring.” 

In addition to the NATO successor, a “forward looking” discussion about Russia and priorities in Afghanistan were just some of the topics around the table when NATO heads of state sat down to dine together Friday night.

Appathurai said all the governments agreed that cooperation between NATO and Russia was paramount despite the “fact of life” that there are areas on which the two sides fundamentally disagree. The desire to cooperate doesn’t mean compromising NATO’s essential principles, he said.

Alluding to clashes between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia last summer, Appathurai said:  “We must continue discussion through the good times and when the times are less good.”