Putin’s overture to incoming NATO chief

Moscow, April 19: Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday lauded incoming NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in sharp contrast to his recent comments on the bloc’s outgoing chief.

“We (Putin and Stoltenberg) have very warm relations, including personal relations,” Xinhua quoted Putin as saying Saturday in a local television interview.

Putin also stated that Stoltenberg “is a very serious and responsible man.”

The remarks came two days after Putin accused current NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of secretly recording and publishing a personal conversation between them when Rasmussen was Danish Prime Minister.

“I could not believe my ears and eyes … He should have at least warned me or at least asked for my permission before publishing these negotiations,” Putin said in his annual live chat with the Russian public.

“What trust can there be after such incidents,” he asked.

Noting Russia-West relations depended on both sides, the president said “I believe there is nothing that could prevent normalization and normal cooperation.”

Stoltenberg, a former Prime Minister of Norway, is to be sworn in as new NATO chief on Oct. 1, when Rasmussen’s term in office expires.

IANS