'ETA policy group' disbands: report

1st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

An illegal Basque radical group viewed by Madrid as the policy organisation of armed separatist movement ETA has decided to disband, the Basque newspaper Gara reported Saturday.

The move was welcomed by the Spanish government, which called it "another step forward but said that ETA still had to lay down its arms.

Gara quoted two unnamed leaders of Ekin as saying the group was taking the long term view after discussions that had begun in the spring. They denied the decision to disband was linked to the early elections called for November 20.

Pressure is building on a seriously weakened ETA to announce a definitive end to the four-decade armed struggle in which more than 800 people have been killed before the polls.

Imprisoned ETA members said Friday they would stick to the so-called Guernica agreement which last year called for an end to the banned Basque movement's violent campaign.

The October 25 accord signed by several pro-independence left-wing parties, unions and Basque nationalist movements called on ETA to agree to "a permanent and unilateral ceasefire that can be verified by the international community, as an expression of its will to definitively give up its armed struggle".

Government spokesman Jose Blanco said Saturday that Ekin's decision is "one more step" but added that, "the definitive step, the one we want, is for the terrorist organisation to give up its weapons for ever."

Interior Minister Antonio Camacho said the end of ETA was "closer than ever" and its own disbanding was irreversible.

ETA has been weakened considerably following a string of arrests and has not carried out any attacks since August 2009.

Ekin, formed in 1999, was declared illegal in 2007 and seriously damaged in September last year with the arrest of nine of its suspected leaders.

Judicial authorities called it "the heart of ETA," saying its task was to implement the movement's political and military strategy.

Since January ETA claims to have imposed a unilateral ceasefire but the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says it must renounce all violence definitively and unconditionally.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in more than 40 years of bombings and shootings in a bid to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

© 2011 AFP

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