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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Peace Talks Resume In Grozny

GROZNY -- Peace talks resumed in Chechnya on Thursday after a four-day break, with the Russian side bullish about prospects for a settlement.

A member of the Chechen delegation struck a less optimistic note, however, accusing the Russians of back-pedalling on a previously agreed position on the thorny issue of the status of Chechnya.

Head Chechen negotiator Usman Imayev remained too sick to rejoin the negotiations, He was temporarily replaced by Khozakhmed Yarikhanov, head of education under Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev.

The Russian side were optimistic that new proposals worked out with President Boris Yeltsin on Tuesday would clear the way for the signing of a peace agreement by Sunday.

"Many things indicate there is a desire for a final decision by Sunday," Russian negotiator Arkady Volsky said before the talks began.

As the two sides broke for lunch, Chechen delegate Akhmad Zakayev said they had discussed a new offer from his side on the status of Chechnya -- the most vexing issue they face.

And according to the Russian delegation leader, the two sides were close to resolving the problem.

"We discussed several wordings of Chechnya's status and chose one to be considered at talks -- a very short wording which consists of only four lines," Vyacheslav Mikhailov told reporters. He did not specify what the wording was.

However Chechen delegate Akhyad Idigov told Interfax he did not know what version Mikhailov had in mind, and said that the consultations in Moscow had led the Russian side to row back on previous agreements: "The Russian side backpedaled after the break in the talks and after consultations in Moscow," he said.

Despite a cease-fire declared to accompany the talks, fighting intensified in Grozny overnight, with fierce shooting reported in the capital's Leninsky region.

The clash began when rebel fighters opened fire on Russian troops stationed not far from where the Russian negotiators are staying, Itar-Tass reported.

(AP, Reuters, MT)