NATO chief hospitalised

22nd July 2009, Comments 0 comments

NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was admitted to hospital in Brussels Tuesday after suffering a blocked artery, days before he is due to stand down as head of the military alliance.

BRUSSELS - "The secretary general went to hospital," spokesman James Appathurai told AFP, after the NATO's top civilian official became unwell at a central Brussels park.

"They have cleared a small blockage in an artery. He is resting comfortably," he said.

De Hoop Scheffer, 61, is still in intensive care with arterial thrombosis and will remain under observation for a few days, but doctors expect him to make a full recovery, Appathurai added.

Earlier Tuesday, Appathurai had reported that the secretary general had fallen ill after inaugurating a "NATO village" at a park in central Brussels on Belgium's national holiday, to mark the alliance's 60th anniversary.

With him at the ceremony was Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy and Defence Minister Pieter De Crem.

After the ceremony De Hoop Scheffer, whose mandate expires at the end of the month, had to sit down on a park bench, suffering from the heat and humidity, said Appathurai.

"Feeling unwell, he then laid down for a minute on the bench to recover his strength," Appathurai said.

At first, the spokesman said that it was nothing more than the cumulative effect of the hot weather and the NATO chief's schedule, which had been particularly heavy in recent days.

In a statement issued later, NATO said Scheffer "will stay in hospital for a few days for observation. He will make a full recovery."

Scheffer has made a series of trips to many of the alliance's 28 member states as he prepares to hand over to Denmark's former prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and only returned to Belgium from London late on Monday night.

He was also in Afghanistan last month, where mainly US, British and Afghan military casualties have surged as the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) struggles to overcome the Taliban-led insurgency.

Scheffer has occupied his post since January 2004. His mandate was to have expired last year, but he was given a nine-month extension to chaperone the world's biggest military alliance through its 60th anniversary in April.

He is the third Dutchman to head the alliance, following Joseph Luns, who died in 2003 at the age of 90 and who guided NATO through most of the Cold War years from 1971 to 1984, and Dirk Stikker who was secretary general from 1961 to 1964.

Rasmussen will succeed Scheffer on August 1.

On holiday in the south of France, Rasmussen said in an interview with the Monday edition of newspaper Midi Libre that he wanted "to focus on improving the relationship between NATO and Russia" after he takes office.

NATO and Moscow formally resumed high-level dialogue at the end of April after ties were frozen in the wake of Russia's war in Georgia in August 2008.


0 Comments To This Article