ANKARA Muslim countries have asked Turkey to veto Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the next NATO chief, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.
The current NATO secretary general, Dutchman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, steps down on July 31 and his successor is expected to be named at a NATO summit on April 3 and 4.
Erdogan said he talked to Rasmussen by telephone on Friday and told him the Turkish people were upset by the Danish prime minister's position during a row in 2006 over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad printed in a Danish newspaper.
Rasmussen refused to apologise for the cartoons, which sparked riots and attacks on Danish embassies in several Muslim states. Some Western governments defended the publication of the cartoons in the name of freedom of expression.
"A very serious reaction emerged in countries with Muslim populations during the cartoon crisis," Erdogan told NTV broadcaster late on Friday.
Of Rasmussen's appointment, he said "now these countries have started to call us and tell us not to allow it."
Erdogan, who is leader of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, did not say directly he would veto Rasmussen as NATO party chief, an appointment made by consensus of NATO members.
But he said, "I am also a political party leader and I certainly should not contradict with my party's principles. I told him he can appreciate what that means."
He also said Turkey was upset Denmark had allowed a pro-Kurdish militant television station to broadcast from Denmark.
Turkey is concerned that at a time when NATO faces rising demands in Afghanistan, a secretary general with such an approach could affect the alliance's relationship with the Muslim world.
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