Madrid 'in talks' with banned Batasuna party

4th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 July 2005, MADRID — The Basque region's prime minister claimed the central Spanish government had started peace talks with the outlawed Batasuna party, the political wing of the violent separatist group ETA.

4 July 2005

MADRID — The Basque region's prime minister claimed the central Spanish government had started peace talks with the outlawed Batasuna party, the political wing of the violent separatist group ETA.

In an interview published on Sunday in the Basque newspaper Deia, Juan José Ibarretxe said that both his government and the Socialist administration in Madrid "are already in dialogue with Batasuna", the British daily The Guardian reported.

The newspaper added that Ibarretxe also claimed "a final resolution" to the conflict in the Basque region "will only be possible without violence".

Representatives of Spain's ruling Socialist party have denied that talks are under way.

Rodolfo Ares, a Socialist representative in the Basque region, said he "wasn't aware of any negotiations".

The president of the Spanish senate, Javier Rojo, said Ibarretxe should restrict his comments to his own actions, not "what he thinks others are doing".

The pro-government El País newspaper reported Spain's prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and Ibarretxe had agreed on the framework for future talks with ETA.

It would include a political round table to which the banned Batasuna party would be invited if ETA set down its arms.

The talks would revolve around the future of jailed ETA members and Basque demands for greater regional autonomy, the paper said.

ETA has killed more than 850 people in its three-decade fight for an independent state in northern Spain and southwestern France.

But the organisation has been severely weakened by the arrest of hundreds of supposed activists. It has not murdered in two years.

In May, the Spanish parliament voted to allow the talks with ETA, provided it renounced violence.

However, opposition leaders say the only way to deal with terrorists is through police action. An association of terrorist victims says that previous ceasefires only allowed ETA to regroup and kill again.

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Subject: Spanish news

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