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Former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, incoming NATO Secretary General. / AFP/Getty Images

The White House on Friday lauded the selection of former Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg as the next NATO Secretary General.

"As Prime Minister, he (Stoltenberg) built Norway's military capabilities and actively contributed to NATO operations and political dialogue," said a statement from Jay Carney, President Obama's press secretary. "We are confident he is the best person to ensure the continued strength and unity of the NATO Alliance."

Stoltenberg takes office Oct. 1.

Carney's statement also praises outgoing NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the leader of the military alliance since 2009.

"From preparing for NATO's transition in Afghanistan, to seeing us through the intervention in Libya, and -- now -- to providing strong leadership in the face of Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, Secretary General Rasmussen has been a steadfast partner and a trusted friend," Carney said.

Reuters reports that Stoltenberg will take command of NATO at a challenging time:

"The urgency of the Ukraine crisis means that the alliance, which is due to end combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of this year, is likely to refocus back onto its core task of defending its member countries.

"NATO foreign ministers are expected to discuss next week in Brussels how they can reinforce the alliance's military presence in eastern European countries such as the Baltics and Poland, which are nervous that they are vulnerable.

"Stoltenberg will also face a challenge in trying to persuade European countries to reverse, or at least end, sharp cuts in defense spending that many of them have adopted in response to the financial crisis."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: White House welcomes new NATO leader

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