Romano Prodi in Moscow to discuss Energy, Iran, EU-Russia ties

Prodi's visit is the latest stop on a tour that has taken the Italian leader to Brussels, Vienna, Paris and Berlin, and comes less than a month before Russia hosts Prodi and other leaders from the annual summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.

Kremlin officials were quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that Putin and Prodi would discuss bilateral economic ties and Russia's relations with the European Union, as well as the situation in the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear standoff.

The two last met in 2004, when Prodi was head of the European Commission. Putin was one of the first world leaders to call Prodi in the days after his April election and vow that Italy and Russia would work closely together.

Putin had a particularly close relationship with Prodi's predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, who was considered one of the Russian leaders' closest European allies, the AP reports.

The two also had good personal ties: Putin's daughters vacationed with Berlusconi's family at their Sardinian villa and Berlusconi visited Putin at his presidential residence in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in the summer of 2005.