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Secretary-General leaves for Moscow to meet with top Russian officials

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United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan left today for Moscow to meet with top Russian officials, including Acting President Vladimir Putin, with whom he has spoken on the phone but has not yet met in person.
Commenting on the trip's agenda, Mr. Annan told Russian State Television at UN Headquarters this morning that his discussions with the Russian authorities would cover a broad range of issues, including the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, Tajikistan, Nagorny-Karabakh and the Caucasus. He said that the situation in Chechnya would also be part of the discussions.

"I have always pressed for a peaceful and political solution, and I've been very concerned about the situation of the civilians," Mr. Annan said. "The interest of the civilians - the innocent, the vulnerable - must be paramount in everyone's mind."

From Moscow, the Secretary-General will go to Geneva, where on 31 January he will chair the next round of proximity talks on Cyprus.