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French general takes over NATO command in Virginia

A French general will take over a key NATO command in Norfolk, Virginia, charged with transforming the Europe-centered Cold War alliance to tackle today’s global challenges, NATO has said.

world Updated: Jul 30, 2009 12:35 IST

In an unprecedented move, a French general will take over a key NATO command in Norfolk, Virginia, charged with transforming the Europe-centered Cold War alliance to tackle today’s global challenges, NATO has said.

Gen. Stephane Abrial of the French Air Force will take over from US Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis as NATO’s commander in charge of military modernisation, the alliance said in a statement.

The position has traditionally been held by a four-star US general. Abrial’s appointment marks the first time in NATO’s 60-year history that a non-American officer has been appointed to fill the position.

“For NATO this is unprecedented,” alliance spokesman James Appathurai said. “It is a manifestation of the French return to the military structure, and also of France’s importance to NATO’s future because the (Norfolk) command will help shape the alliance in the 21st century.”

NATO has two strategic commands, Allied Command Operations in Belgium, which oversees all military operations, and Allied Transformation Command in the US, which conducts training, and develops and improves military capabilities for the Alliance.