ETA seeking to 'buy time' with ceasefire offer: Spain

11th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Basque separatist group ETA is seeking to "buy time" with its offer of a permanent halt to its violent campaign for independence from Spain, a top government official said Monday.

In a video declaration sent to the BBC on September 5, ETA said it had decided several months ago to halt armed offensive actions. In a later message it offered to observe a permanent ceasefire "in the right conditions".

But Spain's secretary of state for security, Antonio Camacho, said ETA has not staged attacks because it has been severely debilitated by the arrests of senior members, in an interview published in daily newspaper Publico.

"All this shows that the group does not want to lay down its arms, but instead buy time. And that will only serve to prolong its agony," he said.

"The group has no plans to negotiate its wants to achieve the objectives which it has always had. If it does not achieve them, it will return to the use of violence."

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

Its announcement of a truce last month has been met with scepticism from the government because it has broken such ceasefires without warning in the past.

Pressure on ETA to give up the armed struggle is building, however, not only from the police but also its political wing Batasuna, which was ruled illegal in 2003 due to its links with ETA.

Batasuna, which wants the ban on its activities lifted so it can take part in municipal elections next year, has called on ETA to show its willingness to definitively abandon arms.

Camacho said Batasuna will not be in a position to take part in the election unless it breaks off its ties to ETA or ETA abandons violence.

ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 and started tentative peace talks with Madrid.

But in December 2006 it set off a bomb in a car park at Madrid's airport, killing two men, and in June 2007 it formally called off that ceasefire, citing a lack of concessions by the government in peace talks.

© 2010 AFP

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