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Annan ends visit to Moscow as Russian officials pledge support for UN

Annan ends visit to Moscow as Russian officials pledge support for UN

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today wrapped up a two-day official visit to the Russian Federation after discussing key trouble spots with senior officials, who expressed their country's full backing for the United Nations.

During separate meetings with officials from both houses of Parliament -- the Duma and the Federation Council -- Mr. Annan discussed a wide rage of international issues, including the Balkans, the Middle East, globalization and terrorism.

In a surprise move that departed from the scheduled programme, the Chairman of the Federation Council awarded Mr. Annan the Peter the Great Prize at a ceremony attended by many of the 100 members of the Council. Thanking the Chairman on behalf of the UN and all of its staff members, the Secretary-General said, "I think that through me, he was honouring them."

The Secretary-General also held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on areas of mutual concern, including Georgia, Nagorny Karabakh, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq and the Balkans.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference following the meeting, the Foreign Minister said his country "highly appreciates the personal contribution of Secretary-General Annan to the strengthening of the role of the United Nations."

"Russia will support the candidacy of Kofi Annan for a second term as Secretary-General," Mr. Ivanov said.

According to a UN spokesman, the Secretary-General's talks with the Russian Foreign Minister also touched on a proposal by the United States to build a new antiballistic missile system. Commenting on that issue yesterday in response to questions from the press, Mr. Annan said, "We must be sure that the new antiballistic missile system does not lead to another arms race." He added: "The US Government has indicated that strategic discussions are required -- long and deep strategic discussions -- on this issue. I believe that dialogue has begun and the US administration has sent envoys around the world to explain their position."

The Secretary-General heads next to Amsterdam for a brief stopover before going to Geneva, where on Thursday he will address the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly.