- - Sunday, October 28, 2012

MADRID — A member of the Basque separatist group ETA responsible for its arms and explosives caches was arrested in eastern France on Sunday, officials said.

Izaskun Lesaka, 37, and another suspected ETA member, Joseba Iturbide Ochoteco, 35, were arrested in the early hours by elite French police in a hotel in Macon, France, Spain’s Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The suspects, both armed, were tracked down and arrested by a special operations tactical unit of the French National Police in close collaboration with Spanish counterparts, the ministry said.

It said Lesaka was considered one of ETA’s top three leaders and that police also seized “abundant computer equipment and a stolen car with false number plates.”

ETA is considered a terrorist organization by Spain, the U.S. and the European Union. It is blamed for the killings of at least 825 people in a campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent Basque state straddling Spain’s border with France.

The group has been decimated by waves of arrests in Spain, France and other countries over recent years and further weakened by declining grass-roots support among Basque nationalists who had tolerated its activities in exchange for working toward the goal of independence.

ETA announced a definitive cease-fire late last year, but Spain insists it must lay down its arms and dissolve before the government takes such declarations seriously.


Lithuanians vote fora new parliament

VILNIUS — Lithuanians voted Sunday in a parliamentary election that could determine whether the small East European nation continues tough austerity measures in an effort to join the eurozone.

Two center-left opposition parties — Labor and the Social Democrats — have pledged to form a new coalition government together with another opposition party, promising to end the current government’s budget cuts and increase social spending.

Labor finished first in the earlier opening round of the parliamentary election, and the Social Democrats second.

The Social Democrats also have said that Lithuania should postpone introducing the euro until the European Union can sort out its three-year economic crisis.

But the center-right government of Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius’ Homeland Union-Christian Democrats could pull off an upset.

“It seems the likeliest option is that the three parties will end up with a similar number of seats, so coalition talks are likely to be quite long,” Mr. Kubilius told reporters after voting Sunday.

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