Hurd tipped to head NATO

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 March, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 March, 1995, 12:00am

BRITISH Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd is being tipped as the next secretary-general of NATO following a Belgian bribery scandal which threatens the future of the current incumbent Willy Claes.

The European Union peace envoy to the former Yugoslavia, Lord Owen, is also in the running but differing views on his handling of the Balkan crisis may go against him.

Mr Claes' future at NATO is now being seen as extremely limited, even though he has only been in the job a few months following the death of former secretary-general Manfred Woerner.

His name is being linked with that of Frank Vandenbrouke, the Belgian Foreign Minister who resigned this week over a bribery scandal involving the purchase of Italian helicopters for the Belgian armed forces.

One American diplomat said yesterday: 'Douglas Hurd's name is coming up regularly as a possible replacement, way ahead of any other possible candidate.' Mr Hurd is understood to have been privately approached over his interest in the HK$1.8 million post when Mr Woerner died, although he turned it down then.

There has since been strong speculation that he wants to leave his current post as Foreign Secretary some time this year and some observers have commented that he wanted to get a major conference on British foreign policy next Tuesday out of the way before he considers his future.

He is known to want to leave British politics and has to face the possibility that the Conservative party could find itself devastated at a general election possibly next year.

Mr Hurd meets all NATO's requirements being reasonably close to the French whose co-operation is vital for the future of the Alliance and is well thought of by both the Germans and the Americans.