Basque separatists call for peace

Spanish government says armed group Eta must first renounce violence.

    Tens of thousands of people protested against negotiation with Eta in Madrid in March [AFP]

    In an interview in Gara newspaper on Sunday, Eta said: "Those who have divided the Basque homeland ... have taken on the enormous task of destroying the identity of our people.
    "They must abandon this policy of imposition and give our citizens the democratic tools to ... build a future."
    Gara, a bilingual Spanish and Basque newspaper, is a common vehicle of communication for Eta.
    The paper published the interview on a nationalist holiday in the northern region accompanied by a photograph of two hooded and masked fighters sitting at a table.
    Airport bombing
    It was the group's first statement since January, when it claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed two people at Madrid's Barajas airport.


    "If the attacks on the Basque homeland disappear, we are prepared to make firm commitments to a scenario of non-violence", the interview with the unnamed fighters said.


    "If the attacks on the Basque homeland disappear, we are prepared to make firm commitments to a scenario of non-violence"

    Eta spokesman, speaking to Gara newspapeper

    Many Eta members have been arrested in the group's heartland in a government offensive after the bombing in January. Police said 10 days ago that they were on maximum alert after finding hundreds of kilograms of explosives and bomb-making equipment.


    Eta blamed the Socialist government and the Basque Nationalist Party for the blockage of the peace process. Eta was still committed to a democratic solution to the Basque conflict, it said, and stood by its ceasefire declaration of March last year.


    The separatists said the same in their last statement, despite claiming responsibility for the Madrid airport bomb - its first fatal attack since May 2003.


    But they denied that Eta had lost credibility with the attack - during a ceasefire - and instead criticised the "wild" attacks of Basque police on street protesters.


    After the bombing in January, the Spanish government said it was abandoning a peace process which many had hoped would end Eta's violent four-decade campaign for independence in the Basque Country, located in northern Spain and southwest France.


    May elections


    Many believe, however, that the government has continued to seek dialogue with Eta, prompting consistent criticism from the Popular Party, the opposition party, which accuses the Socialist government of making concessions to "terrorists".


    Eta said it could not imagine regional elections taking place next month without the participation of members of the Batasuna Party, which was banned for its links to Eta. Under Spanish law, Batasuna can take part in elections only if it renounces violence.


    The group said it would "take very much into account" the government's measures in response to the formation of an alternative to Batasuna.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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