Mr. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General arrived in Moscow from Vienna Sunday afternoon, and had an early working dinner with former Prime Minister Evgeni Primakov. Primakov is a member of the Secretary-General’s high-level panel on change, and they discussed the work of the panel, among other issues. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Georgia, Heidi Tagliavini was also present, and the post-election situation in Georgia was also discussed. On Monday morning, Mr. Annan laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before calling on the newly-appointed Prime Minister, Mikhail E. Fradkhov. The Secretary-General told the Prime Minister that he was looking forward to receiving the report of the high level panel on change, adding that he was grateful for Primakov’s participation and hoped that UN Member States would muster the political will to follow its recommendations to adapt the UN to meet the central issues of the day, such as preventive war, weapons of mass destruction, poverty and HIV/AIDS. They discussed Russia’s rapid economic growth and its relations with the UN Economic Commission for Europe. The Prime Minister mentioned that Russian business had a growing interest in the UN Global Compact to foster corporate responsibility. The Secretary-General raised the issue of refugees and displaced persons in the Northern Caucasus, saying the UN wanted to expand its activities in Chechnya. The Prime Minister cited positive changes in Chechnya. Russia was grateful for the work of international organizations in the region, and hoped that international assistance to Chechnya could be increased. The Secretary-General expressed concern at the sharp rise in Russia of the rate of infection with HIV/AIDS and urged that energetic action be taken by the top leadership to urgently tackle the problem. Mr. Annan then dropped by at a Model UN Conference that involved some 1,800 high school and university students from all over Russia. He addressed them briefly, saying that perhaps a future Secretary-General was right in that room and “she” would look back fondly on her experience here. The many women students in the audience were delighted.In the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an unusually long meeting that lasted an hour and forty minutes. The President expressed Russia’s continued support for and confidence in the United Nations, despite some of the criticism being heard these days. He said he also supported the Secretary-General’s reform efforts through the high level panel on change. He initially focused discussion on three topics – Iraq, the Middle East and Kosovo. They then went on to Afghanistan and the Georgia/Abkhazia conflict. The Secretary-General praised the President for his recent statement to the Duma on HIV/AIDS, and went on to ask about Russian intentions regarding ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. At the end, the Secretary-General thanked Russia for its effort to win the freedom of the Mйdecins Sans Frontiиres (MSF) aid worker, Arjan Erkel, abducted in Dagestan. Mr. Annan then had a working lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. They discussed Iraq in specific detail, 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. They also touched on Israel’s planned withdrawal from Gaza, voter registration in Afghanistan, the situation in Nagorny Karabakh, negotiations over the Korean Peninsula and UN-Russian relations. The Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister then met with the press. Asked what steps might be taken following the recent violence in Iraq, the Secretary-General said he had a team in Iraq working with the Iraqi people on what mechanism they should use for the political transition to the establishment of a sovereign government by the end of June. “We will do our best to ensure that an Iraqi government that represents the Iraqi people, that’s in charge of its own affairs, its political and economic destiny, is installed, and that is what the Security Council wants,” he said. “In the meantime, I would want to appeal to all in Iraq to cooperate with each other and to resist the violence that has taken innocent lives.” Another journalist asked what was the rush for an agreement on Cyprus and why was it necessary to “blackmail” the parties. The Secretary-General replied that the parties had engaged with the United Nations freely and willingly and that his proposed reunification plan would be put to referenda in Cyprus on the 21 of April. “So the last word with be with them, and I do not think one is imposing anything on them,” he asserted. “They decide.”The Secretary-General’s last official visit of the day was with former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, now the Secretary of the National Security Council, the body that coordinates the work of all Russian agencies dealing with security issues, domestic and international. It was the Secretary-General’s first visit to the National Security Council. With Mr. Ivanov, the Secretary-General briefly reviewed the situation in Georgia, Iraq, Iran and the Middle East, and they also discussed the Secretary-General’s panel on change.