Stoltenberg tipped to lead NATO

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Jens Stoltenberg, who ranked as one of Norway’s most popular prime ministers ever, now appears to be a candidate for the top job at NATO. He merely says it’s always “very nice to be mentioned” for such prestigious positions but otherwise stayed mum.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had another meeting in Oslo on Wednesday, where they discussed energy, economy and several of the world's trouble spots. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Torbjørn Kjosvold

Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met many times during Stoltenberg’s eight years as prime minister, like here in Oslo last winter. Now he reportedly has her support to become secretary general of NATO. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Torbjørn Kjosvold

Norwegian media scrambled on Tuesday to follow up on a report in Italian newspaper La Repubblica that Stoltenberg is the top choice of both US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to succeed outgoing NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen. It’s not the first time Stoltenberg’s name has come up in connection with top international jobs, and he already is a UN special envoy on climate issues along with leading Norway’s Labour Party and the political opposition in the Norwegian Parliament.

When his coalition government lost power in the last election, speculation flew that Stoltenberg would move on to an international post because of his recognized talent, connections and sheer charm. La Repubblica reported that Stoltenberg is best-suited to lead NATO because of the support from Obama and Merkel, and because of his political acumen. Norwegian commentators have long maintained that Stoltenberg has a unique ability to win consensus and he consistently had high approval ratings as Norway’s prime minister for eight years, not least during times of crisis when Norway came under terrorist attack in 2011.

Won’t confirm or deny
Stoltenberg wouldn’t confirm or deny the Italian newspaper report that he was a leading choice to take over for Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, when Rasmussen’s term ends in September.

“In the months that have passed since the election I’ve been mentioned in different contexts, for various jobs, and I’ve answered the same every time,” Stoltenberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “That’s that I can’t confirm or deny it. The same applies with this speculation.”

Asked whether he would take the NATO job if offered it, he repeated the same answer but added “I think it’s always very nice to be mentioned.”

Other candidates for the NATO job reportedly include former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, British Defense Minister Philip Hammond and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund