BRUSSELS, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who stepped down as leader of NATO on Tuesday, announced on Wednesday he was setting up a consultancy offering strategic advice to governments and corporations on security and diplomatic issues.
Rasmussen, who built an extensive network of contacts in years as NATO secretary-general and before that as Danish prime minister, said his new firm, Rasmussen Global, would advise governments, global organizations and major corporations.
"I look forward to continuing my focus on issues such as international security, trans-Atlantic relations, the European Union and globalization," Rasmussen said in a statement.
Corporate Europe Observatory, a campaign group that seeks to make public the influence enjoyed by corporations and lobbyists in European Union policy-making, sharply criticized Rasmussen's move when reached by Reuters.
"This seems a shocking example of an ex-official going through the revolving door and offering his reputation, contacts and insider know-how for private gain," said Vicky Cann, a campaigner for the Observatory.
Reinhard Butikofer, a German member of the European Parliament for the Greens, said: "Starting a consultancy lobbying on security issues immediately after stepping down as NATO secretary general is inappropriate and unacceptable."
Asked by Reuters to respond to the criticism, Rasmussen said he would stay alert to conflicts of interest.
"I haven't started any concrete activity until today because I didn't want the slightest conflict of interest," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I have built a huge amount of experience during all these years and I think it is also in the public interest that I use that experience for the public good," he said.
The European Commission, NATO's neighbour in Brussels, has a code of conduct barring former commissioners from lobbying the EU's executive body for 18 months after leaving office.
NATO did not immediately respond to requests for comment on what its rules for such activities were or specifically on Rasmussen's career move. (Reporting by Adrian Croft; Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Annabella Pultz Nielsen in Copenhagen; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)