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Annan Talks Iraq and Midde East With Russians

Iraq, Middle East Top Agenda In Annan's Talks With Russian Leaders

Iraq and the Middle East, as well as regional issues such as Kosovo and the conflict in Georgia topped the agenda as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials today in Moscow.

During their nearly two-hour-long meeting, President Putin expressed Russia's continued support for, and confidence in, the United Nations, despite criticism heard in recent days, and said he supported the Secretary-General's reform efforts, a UN spokesman travelling with Mr. Annan reported.

The two discussed Iraq, the Middle East, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, spokesman Fred Eckhard said. The Secretary-General praised President Putin for his recent statement to the Duma on AIDS, and thanked Russia for its efforts to free Arjan Erkel, an aid worker abducted in Dagestan.

Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General met with newly appointed Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, with whom he discussed economic issues. Mr. Annan raised the issue of refugees and displaced persons in the Northern Caucasus, and said the UN wants to expand its activities in Chechnya, according to Mr. Eckhard.

The Secretary-General also had a working lunch with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, discussing Iraq in detail, and talking of how to help the Iraqis arrive at a mechanism for the handover of sovereignty, and how they might arrange for security after the transfer of power.

The two covered Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza, voter registration in Afghanistan, the situation in Nagorny Karabakh, negotiations over the Korean peninsula and UN-Russian relations, Mr. Eckhard said.

During a press encounter after his meeting with the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General was asked about the violence in Iraq. "We will do our best to ensure that an Iraqi Government that represents the Iraqi people, that is in charge of its own affairs, its political and economic destiny, is installed," he said, referring to the UN's work. Until then, "I would want to appeal to all in Iraq to cooperate with each other and to resist the violence that has taken innocent civilian lives."

The Secretary-General's last appointment of the day was with former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, now the Secretary of the National Security Council, for discussions on Georgia, Iraq, Iran and the Middle East, as well as the Secretary-General's panel on change.

Mr. Annan had met a member of that panel, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, last night after arriving earlier Sunday from Vienna, where he held two days of meetings with top-level UN officials.

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