Socialists deny links to banned Basque party

22nd March 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 March 2005, MADRID-Spain's ruling Socialists deny having any contact with a Basque party outlawed for links to separatist violence.

22 March 2005

MADRID-Spain's ruling Socialists deny having any contact with a Basque party outlawed for links to separatist violence.

They have rejected calls from the main opposition conservatives for a review of the allegations under the terms of the anti-terrorism pact the two big national parties signed in 2000.

Batasuna, banned by the courts in 2003 for its ties to the Basque terrorist group ETA, denounced as a "lie" the claim that it has a "communication channel" with the Socialists, while emphasizing its readiness to meet with people of all political persuasions.

The Socialist Party said there is "nothing to justify" the Popular Party's call for a meeting of the anti-terrorism pact because no leader of the ruling party has maintained contacts with Batasuna.

The agreement, aimed mainly at ETA and signed when the PP was in power, was intended to create a bipartisan consensus on battling terror.

Socialist Party executive Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba and PP chairman Mariano Rajoy met last November to reaffirm their respective organization's commitment to the pact.

Speaking for the government, Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said the government had had no contact with Batasuna.

She added it would not talk to the group until and unless the Basque separatist party "makes a clear and explicit statement against violence."

Her remarks echoed comments at the weekend by Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at a Socialist rally in the Basque region, which is holding elections for its regional parliament on 17 April.

Claims that Socialists were in touch with members of Batasuna appeared over the weekend in a Spanish newspaper, which said the contacts were mentioned in a intercepted phone conversation between a jailed ETA member and a Basque political activist.

Despite the multiple denials from the Socialist Party and the Zapatero government, the PP is formally requesting a meeting under the anti-terrorism pact.

The conservatives say the aim of such a session would be "to clear up and, if possible, dispel, all doubts about the intentions of the government, its leader and the Socialist Party" in relation to Batasuna and ETA.

A Spanish court revoked Batasuna's status as a political party in 2003, saying the group was "substantially identical" to ETA, which has killed more than 830 people since 1968 in its campaign to create an independent Basque nation from parts of northern Spain and south-western France.

Batasuna has been fighting to get on the ballot for next month's elections in the Basque region, whose president, moderate nationalist Juan Jose Ibarretxe, has argued that the outlawed party should be allowed to take part in the election.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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