Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Chechen counterpart signed a new peace agreement at the Kremlin Monday, moving to squelch festering problems in the wake of a devastating 20-month war.

Yeltsin said the pact would end 400 years of conflict between Russia and Chechnya. He beamed as he stood alongside Aslan Maskhadov, the former separatist military chief.However, the treaty ducked the key remaining issue: whether Chechnya will ultimately be allowed full independence. Mos-cow disputes the republic's assertion that it is already independent but agreed last year to put off a decision on Chechnya's political status for five years.

The brief treaty serves mainly to emphasize the two sides' commitment to peace and their determination to, in Yeltsin's words, "put an end to antagonism, conflicts, terrorist acts, hostage-taking."

He said they wanted to make a "statement of firm intent to give up forever the use of force against each other."

Maskhadov and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin later signed an agreement on economic cooperation between Russia and Chechnya. The document pledges greater coordination between the two sides in getting pensions, benefits and war compensation payments to Chechens and emphasizes the release of all detainees.

Relations between Russia and Chechnya have been rocky despite the signing of peace agreements last year that ended their war and led to the withdrawal of Russian troops from the breakaway republic. Each side accuses the other of stirring up trouble.

Chechnya remains plagued by lawlessness, casting doubt on Maskhadov's ability to return stability to the region.