Search for Nato chief goes awry

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Brussels - Attempts to find a new Nato secretary-general were in disarray last night, as the US appeared to have withdrawn support from the favoured European candidate, Ruud Lubbers, the former Dutch Prime Minister, writes Sarah Helm.

The unprecedented and unseemly dispute over who should take the top Nato job, coming after the resignation of Willy Claes over corruption allegations, is producing a serious rift between Washington and its European partners. The US is believed to be dissatisfied with the European candidates proposed so far. In a highly unusual move, the US invited the two main candidates, Mr Lubbers and Uffe Elleman-Jensen, the former Danish foreign minister, for talks in Washington. The Americans have indicated that Mr Lubbers is not suitable and Mr Elleman-Jensen is preferable but the manoeuvre is seen in Brussels as a ploy to force new candidates into the ring.