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Published: Wednesday March 26, 2014 MYT 11:45:05 PM
Updated: Wednesday March 26, 2014 MYT 11:45:05 PM

Cameron backs Norway's Stoltenberg to be next NATO leader

British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg meet with representatives of British and Norwegian energy companies at the Aker ASA company in Oslo June 7, 2012. REUTERS/Erlend Aas/NTB Scanpix/Pool

British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg meet with representatives of British and Norwegian energy companies at the Aker ASA company in Oslo June 7, 2012. REUTERS/Erlend Aas/NTB Scanpix/Pool

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday he backed former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg to take over the leadership of NATO later this year, throwing his weight behind the front runner to lead the Western military alliance.

"I think Jens Stoltenberg would be an excellent candidate, I've worked very closely with him and I think it would be very good to have such a candidate who has filled such a high office in his own country," Cameron told parliament, when asked about Stoltenberg's candidacy.

Several diplomats told Reuters earlier this week that Stoltenberg, who served for a total of nearly 10 years as Norway's prime minister before losing power in elections last September, has the backing of the United States, NATO's dominant power, and Germany. A number of other countries were also rallying around his candidacy.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is due to step down later this year. Whoever takes over from him will face a new challenge from Russia whose occupation of Ukraine's Crimea has put a chill on attempts by NATO and Russia to work together.

(Reporting by William James and Andrew Osborn; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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