New Nato term for Worner

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BRUSSELS (Reuter) - The Nato Secretary-General, Manfred Worner, will stay in the job longer than planned because member nations say they need his experience to guide the alliance through one of its worst crises. Norway said yesterday all 16 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members had agreed to keep him in the job, probably until mid-1996.

Mr Worner, a former West German defence minister and fighter pilot, had been due to quit next year. A Nato spokesman declined all comment, but diplomats said the forceful and decisive Mr Worner - who saw the alliance through the end of the Cold War after taking the job in 1988 - was needed to help resolve problems over its new role.

'It is now clear that Worner will continue and Norway supports this consensus,' the Norwegian Defence Minister, Johan Joergen Holst, said in Oslo. Mr Holst himself had been a candidate to replace Mr Worner, who will be 58 on Thursday and underwent intestinal surgery this year.

Nato is facing crippling internal disputes over where it fits into the turbulent new Europe after 40 years of preparing to fend off a Soviet military threat. The United States, backed by some allies, wants to extend Nato's role beyond alliance borders into areas such as peace-keeping. But France has championed a more independent European defence identity, leaving Nato as an insurance policy against any new risks.

Germany has played an important mediating role in this dispute and alliance sources said Mr Worner, with a high international profile, was better suited to the job than Norway's Mr Holst.