Basques expected to launch push for independence

14th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

14 September 2007, MADRID - Spain's northern Basque region was expected to launch a greater push for an autonomy bordering on independence after moderate leader Josu Jon Imaz announced he was leaving active politics.

14 September 2007

MADRID - Spain's northern Basque region was expected to launch a greater push for an autonomy bordering on independence after moderate leader Josu Jon Imaz announced he was leaving active politics.

Imaz said Wednesday he would no longer head the region's governing Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) from December onwards, when the party will elect its next president.

The moderate PNV wants to increase Basque autonomy, but condemns the violence of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, which ended its 14-month ceasefire in June.

Imaz' departure was seen as boosting a more radical wing within the party, including regional premier Juan Jose Ibarretxe, who wants to stage an illegal Basque referendum on self-determination against the opposition of the Spanish government.

Imaz had warned about the risks of such a strategy, which, he feared, could lead to a confrontation with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government, deepen the rift dividing separatist- minded and Spanish-minded Basques, and boost ETA.

Zapatero said Imaz' departure left him "baffled," while conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy felt it was "bad for Spain."

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba sought Thursday to calm down concern that the PNV could become more favourable to ETA, saying such "fears" were "unfounded."

Imaz could be succeeded by PNV spokesman Inigo Urkullu, though it was not clear whether Ibarretxe's wing would accept the moderate politician, reports said. dpa st sc

[Copyright DPA with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news


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