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CHECHENS CAVE IN TO ULTIMATUM

Chechen rebels reportedly agreed to begin laying down their weapons, just hours after Russian President Boris Yeltsin threatened "extraordinary" measures unless they disarmed.

The commander of the Russian military in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Anatoly Romanov, told the ITAR-Tass news agency Tuesday the rebels would begin surrendering weapons somewhere in the breakaway republic on Wednesday. He would not name the site.Romanov spoke after meeting Tuesday in the Chechen capital, Grozny, with Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev's top military commander, Aslan Mas-kha-dov.

Later, the two men issued a joint statement saying the fighting would not resume and all issues would be resolved through "peaceful means," ITAR-Tass said.

Earlier Tuesday, Yeltsin told reporters the Kremlin was prepared to resume military action unless the Chechen rebels answered his ultimatum to disarm immediately.

Yeltsin's harsh comments had threatened to smash the fragile efforts to bring peace to Chechnya. A cease-fire has been regularly violated by both sides, but fighting has subsided considerably in recent months.

"If there is no answer to the Russian government statement or if there is an answer that doesn't satisfy us, we will take special, extraordinary energetic measures, including military (action)," Yeltsin said.

"The gangs in Chechnya are beginning to revive and get more active, and we must not allow them to once again creep down into the lowlands of the republic and Grozny and once again resume their bandit operations."

There was no direct word on Yeltsin's comments from Dudayev, who has been in hiding for several months in the mountains of southern Chechnya.

Peace talks in Grozny were suspended Tuesday for two days so the Chechens could consult with Dudayev, Interfax said.

Under an agreement signed July 30, the rebels agreed to begin to disarm while Russia agreed to begin withdrawing its soldiers from the secessionist southern republic.

So far, though, neither side has carried out the terms of the accord.