President Boris Yeltsin offered Monday to pull back Russian troops from the outskirts of the Chechen capital and said it was time to end Moscow's military campaign in the breakaway Russian republic.

Yeltsin's move appeared to be an invitation for Chechen leaders to resume peace talks - although they have so far rejected his demands that they disarm their supporters and abandon their drive for independence.He clearly was not forsaking his intention to rein in the Chechens, who declared independence from Russia in 1991. While calling for an end to the military campaign, he indicated Russia would move to restore its administrative control over the province.

Yeltsin said the army could be withdrawn to temporary points on the borders of the Chechen republic but said he had no plans to take them all the way out of Chechnya.

"It is our republic, and troops will be present there permanently," he said. "However, it will be the job of the police to restore order to Grozny and other areas of Chechnya."

Yeltsin's comments to his hawkish Security Council were reported by the Interfax news agency. The council has been a major force behind the military operation.

His offer, made two weeks after he sent up to 40,000 soldiers into Chechnya, came amid sharp disagreements within the military, the parliament and the Kremlin itself over his decision to use military force.

"We've reached the moment when it's possible to wind up the participation of the military and begin the second stage, to form administrative bodies in the Chechen republic," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Yeltsin said he would go on national television on Tuesday to address the Russian people. Yeltsin has been out of public view since the troops were sent on Dec. 11. His aides have said he was recovering from a minor nose operation.

Grozny was reported calm Monday, following a rare night without a Russian bomb attack; warplanes last bombed Grozny on Sunday. Heavy fighting was reported in villages outside the besieged city on Sunday.

Yeltsin's decision to send troops has been widely criticized, even by reformers who have supported him in the past. Public opinion surveys indicate most Russians opposed the use of force.

Many Russian soldiers have refused to advance on Grozny, saying they would refuse to fire on civilians. A number of military commanders have reportedly been dismissed for refusing to carry out their orders.

Despite the nearly daily bombardment of Grozny, the Chechen capital, Chechen President Dzhokar Dudayev and his supporters have remained defiant. The fighting has left the city badly damaged, and about half of Grozny's 400,000 people have fled.

Moscow has accused Chechen leaders of turning their republic into a haven for criminals since declaring independence and has demanded they disarm and return to their place in the Russian Federation. Chechens see the Russian soldiers as invaders intent on dominating their homeland.