U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have discussed Russia's relations with the world body.

President Putin and Kofi Annan were in positive and complimentary moods as they began their meeting at the Kremlin. The Russian leader praised Mr. Annan's personal role in strengthening the United Nations, as well as his efforts in solving crises.

The U.N. secretary general congratulated Mr. Putin on his recent re-election and expressed his personal gratitude for the active role Russia plays in the United Nations.

Then it was down to business. President Putin declared that the United Nations is the only effective international institution capable of solving global problems.

In a televised portion of the meeting, Mr. Putin said, with a smile, "We hear talk about the United Nations failing to cope with solving difficult tasks. I would like to see how international relations would develop if the United Nations did not exist at all."

Both men acknowledged that there had been tension in the United Nations during the past year. But Mr. Annan said he felt that governments were, as he put it, beginning to come together again to tackle issues of common interest.

Russia is one of the most vocal supporters of the United Nations and has regularly pushed for the organization to play a central role in rebuilding Iraq.

Mr. Putin underlined Russia's continued high regard for the United Nations, in the recent promotion of Russia's former U.N. ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, to the post of Foreign Minister.

In another show of solidarity, President Putin gave his support for Mr. Annan's move to set up a panel of high-level experts to consider reforming the United Nations.

The U.N. secretary general also met with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. According to Russian news agency reports, Mr. Fradkov pledged to increase the volume of humanitarian aid that Russia provides to other countries.