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Besieged Freemen close to giving in

Los Angeles - The American flag, flown defiantly upside down for 81 days, was symbolically lowered yesterday at the Freemen ranch in eastern Montana, amid hopes of an imminent surrender, writes Rupert Cornwell.

But five minutes later, to the consternation of reporters squinting through binoculars, another unidentified flag was hoisted up.

For the first time, it was reported, two FBI vehicles were allowed to enter the compound. "The agreement is moving forward," an FBI source said, after the Freemen reportedly agreed to give up. The key to yesterday's planned surrender was a deal for the Freemen to hand over alleged evidence of government misdoings to a third party for safe-keeping.

Members of the Cause Foundation, a legal group with close ties to far- right activists, were acting as intermediaries.