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Basque separatists announce cease-fire

- Associated Press - Sunday, September 5, 2010

MADRID (AP) — The Basque separatist militant group ETA declared a cease-fire in a video statement issued on Sunday.

The video showed three masked militants making a statement in Basque. The statement appeared on the website of the Basque newspaper Gara and also was made available to the British Broadcasting Corp. Gara accompanied the video with a transcription of the statement in Basque and Spanish.

"ETA makes it known that as of some months ago it took the decision to no longer employ offensive armed actions," the statement said, suggesting it is ready to pursue a "democratic process" in trying to achieve its goals.

The Basque regional government said the cease-fire announcement is "absolutely insufficient" because the group has not renounced violence or announced its dissolution.

Basque Interior Minister Rodolfo Ares' comments were the first official ones from the Basque region or Madrid to ETA's announcement earlier Sunday that it will no longer commit attacks, although the group did not specify if it would surrender its weapons or how long the truce might last.

Mr. Ares said the ETA pledge "does not take into account what the vast majority of Basque society demands and requires from ETA, which is that it definitively abandon terrorist activity."

ETA is seeking an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France. It is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States. It has killed more than 825 people since the late 1960s.

The group last announced what it called a "permanent cease-fire" in March 2006, but on Dec. 30 of the same year the organization set off a powerful car bomb at Madrid's Barajas Airport that killed two people.

It was not clear whether the new truce offer is permanent or whether ETA is signaling it is ready for peace talks with the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The group has been weakened by the arrests of several of its key leaders in Spain, France and Portugal, where a bomb-making factory was discovered by police.

 

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