Norwegian minister tipped to lead Nato

Click to follow
MANFRED WORNER intends to carry on as the Nato Secretary-General for as long as he can after next week's summit, despite seriously failing health.

Mr Worner, who has intestinal cancer, has repeatedly denied that he intends to resign after the summit. He has a great deal to follow up in its aftermath, such as the 'partnerships for peace' plan to forge closer links between the alliance and the Central European countries. Nato insiders, however, expect that he will leave next year at the latest, before his term is up in 1996. Mr Worner, 59, has had two operations in the past two years, and although he displays remarkable energy despite his illness, he often has to leave meetings early.

The candidate most seriously tipped to succeed him is Johann Jorgen Holst, the Norwegian Foreign Minister, who shot to fame last August after helping to broker the secret Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Mr Holst, a former defence minister, was a candidate for the Nato job in 1992, when Mr Worner's term was extended for four years.

Mr Holst is one of a pair of famous Norwegian sometime foreign ministers, sometime international envoys, who also happen to be brothers-in-law. Thorvald Stoltenberg left as foreign minister last year to become the United Nations negotiator in the former Yugoslavia, allowing Mr Holst to succeed him. Previously, Mr Stoltenberg had left prematurely his post as UN High Commissioner for Refugees to become foreign minister. After he prevaricated over accepting the Yugoslavia job, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, spurred him on by threatening to offer it to Mr Holst instead.

As it turned out, Mr Holst was able to claim the credit for the Middle East breakthrough - which process was well under way during Mr Stoltenberg's time as foreign minister - while his brother-in-law ended up presiding, with Lord Owen, over the failure of the Yugoslav peace plan.

The choice of a Scandinavian for the top Nato job, as for many international positions, would be intended to avoid offending as many member states as possible.

The only other person tipped for the post is Uffe Elleman-Jensen, the pipe- smoking former foreign minister of Denmark who helped negotiate a second referendum on Maastricht after the Danes voted against the treaty in 1992.