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ETA call permanent ceasefire

Source: Reuters - Mon 10th Jan 2011

Basque separatist group ETA called a permanent ceasefire on Monday, Basque regional newspaper Gara said on its website, three months after the weakened group announced a halt to armed attacks.

ETA, which has killed more than 850 people in half a century of armed struggle for an independent state in northern Spain and southwest France, has been crippled by arrests and a rise in support among Basques for peaceful methods.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said repeatedly his government will not negotiate with ETA unless the group lays down its weapons. Zapatero says ceasefire declarations are not sufficient to start talks.

"ETA has decided to declare a permanent and general ceasefire which will be verifiable by the international community," the group said in an English-language statement on

"This is ETA's firm commitment toward a process to achieve a lasting resolution and toward an end to the armed confrontation," the statement added.

A spokeswoman for Spain's interior ministry said the government would comment later in the day.

Analysts were skeptical over the ETA statement, which has been expected widely. The group is under pressure from its outlawed political wing, Batasuna, which wants to be legitimized in time to run in forthcoming local elections.

"We can't be satisfied with this sort of statement, which does not mean that ETA is disbanding or showing a desire to disappear," Rogelio Alonso, political science professor at Rey Juan Carlos I University, told state radio.

"It's simply an attempt to put pressure on the democratic players to negotiate their demands."


If peace talks were to take place, ETA is expected to demand amnesty for its members and for some 550 prisoners.

In the statement on Monday, ETA called on the governments of Spain and France, which has helped the Spanish capture ETA members, to "end all repressive measures" against the group.

Rumors of an ETA truce circled in December, but Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba repeatedly said the government would not change its strategy on ETA because of a ceasefire.

"This truce thing doesn't work anymore," Rubalcaba told reporters in mid-December after a weekly cabinet meeting.

ETA has broken ceasefires several times in the past, most recently in 2006 when a truce was ended by a deadly bomb attack at Madrid's airport. Past ceasefires have been seen by analysts as attempts by the organization to regroup with a view to launching further attacks.

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