Jokhar Dudayev has told a Russian negotiator he would resign as leader of the breakaway Chechen republic if Russia grants Chechnya independence. Although Moscow is unlikely to agree to the deal, the announcementis a significant step toward ending the six month old war. It marks the first time the Russians have negotiated directly with the rebel president. Previously, Moscow had refused any negotiations, saying Dudayev was a criminal. The offer came just days after negotiators proposed that Dudayev and the members of the Russian-backed government in Chechnya resign, setting the stage for new elections. Under that plan, the issue of Chechen independence would be put off until after the elections.