Basque PM calls two polls on region's future

28th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

28 September 2007, VITORIA - AFP - The leader of the Basque regional government on Friday unveiled plans for two referendums as part of his "route map" for a new political framework in the troubled northern Spanish region.

28 September 2007

VITORIA - AFP - The leader of the Basque regional government on Friday unveiled plans for two referendums as part of his "route map" for a new political framework in the troubled northern Spanish region.

Juan Jose Ibarretxe, a moderate nationalist, unveiled the plan before the regional parliament in Vitoria and proposed the first vote should be held on October 25 next year.

The northern Basque region, straddling the Pyrenees, has been the scene of a 40-year violent campaign by armed separatist group ETA aimed at achieving an independent Basque state.

"I am going to abide by my commitment," said Ibarretxe, speaking of a promise made in June 2005 to push for a popular vote.

"I am going to establish a route map to break the spiral" of uncertainty after the collapse of a ceasefire torpedoed the Spanish government's attempt to broker a negotiated settlement with ETA.

"On October 25, 2008, Basque society will be consulted to decide democratically. That will be the key to open a process to resolve" the current impasse, Ibarretxe explained.

He added he would be making "an institutional offer to the head of the Spanish government to reach a political pact between the Basque country and Spain."

That pact, he explained, would be based on two main principles: a rejection of violence and the "democratic principle of respect for the will of Basque society."

Ibarretxe added that the vote might not have legal validity but would nonetheless show what the Basque people wanted.

He added that a second vote would be called for 2010 to ratify the end of violence and the right of Basques to decide "freely" their own future.

ETA, blamed for 819 deaths during the conflict, also lays claim to part of the Basque part of southwestern France.

The group called a permanent ceasefire in March last year but violated it with a bombing at Madrid airport last December which killed two people.

In June, ETA formally declared the truce over, and since then there have been several minor attacks.

Increased cooperation between Spanish and French police has led in recent weeks to the arrest of more than 20 suspected ETA members, including its alleged top bombmaker and its logistics chief.

[Copyright AFP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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