Russia offers UN chief Ban vote of confidence in Moscow talks

(dpa) - UN reform, Kosovo and Middle East peace talks topped the agenda as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, diplomats said Thursday.

Lavrov pledged Russia would work to "to strengthened the UN," saying no other organisation could trump it.

"You have our firm assurances that we view the UN as a key organisation toward ensuring that world problems are solved on a collective basis and in accordance with international law," he told Ban, who is on his first visit to Russia.

Addressing Moscow State University students earlier that day, Ban hailed "Russia's conception of a multipolar world" as very close to the UN's and promised the organisation would "work to deepen its partnership with Russia."

Ban also praised Russia's role as part of the Quartet of states involved in mediating Middle East peace talks, and Putin's offer last week of aid to NATO's efforts in Afghanistan.

The exchange seemed more diffuse and diplomatic then when Ban met Wednesday with President Vladimir Putin and president-elect Dmitry Medvedev, who appeared to give the UN chief a lecture on the vitality for world politics of his own organisation.

While Russia, one of the five veto powers on the UN Security Council, backed Ban's leadership, it has grown disenchanted with his stance toward Kosovo and what it sees as an unbalanced US influence on the international organization.

Irked at being almost last in line to be graced by avisit from the UN chief since he took office in January 2007, Russia's president- elect had opened talks firmly on Wednesday.

"Any attempts to solve international problems in violation of UN resolutions, as was in case with Kosovo ... are counterproductive and endanger world stability," Medvedev told Ban.

The comments were an apparent criticism of what Moscow views as Ban's failure to speak out against Kosovo's independence from Serbia, a long time Russian ally.

Russia, whose foreign policy resurgence is buoyed by high oil profits, has looked to increase its weight through international institutions such as the UN in an effort to balance against US hegemony.

According to local newspapers Thursday, Russia is keen for a revamping of the UN and it is willing to up its annual contribution by as much as four times in exchange for a bigger voice in the organization.

The Kremlin, however, is as reticent as most UN member states in lending its own to adorn the blue berets.

Earlier Thursday, Ban delivered an address to Russian businessmen for the local launch of the UN Global Compact. He also spoke with State Duma First Deputy Chairman Oleg Morozov and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.

Since becoming secretary general in January 2007, Ban has visited Washington, Paris and London, but not Moscow and Beijing. Those are the capitals of the UN council's five permanent members, who hold veto power over UN activities and programmes.

The UN chief will wrap up his three-day Moscow visit after an internal UN meeting on Friday.

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