BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO allies agreed on Wednesday to extend Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's term by a year to the end of July 2014, keeping him in charge as NATO-led forces wind down their leading combat role in Afghanistan.
Rasmussen, 59, will be in office until a few months before the planned end of NATO combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
"Following a process of consultations, allies approved today Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's fifth year in office," a statement from NATO ambassadors said.
Potential successors had begun to jostle for position to take over from Rasmussen, with former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini mentioned as a possible candidate.
Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, took the helm at NATO in August 2009 and has been chief during a turbulent period in Afghanistan, where NATO-led forces have been engaged in fighting against Taliban insurgents.
NATO is gradually handing over security responsibilities to local security forces with the goal of giving Afghans nationwide control of security by the end of 2014.
The NATO mission has seen a surge in attacks on foreign troops this year by gunmen wearing Afghan police or army uniforms.
Last year, a NATO bombing campaign in Libya, approved by the U.N. Security Council, helped underpin an Arab Spring uprising that ended Muammar Gaddafi's rule.
NATO chiefs are traditionally appointed for a four-year term with the possibility of extending by a year. There have been cases where a NATO chief's term has been extended for a few months beyond that but in recent times, secretaries-general have not been given full second terms.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Justyna Pawlak and Janet Lawrence)