Spain to mark National Day amid tight security

11th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

11 October 2007 , MADRID - (AFP) - Spain will mark its national day Friday amid tight security following a car bombing earlier this week blamed on ETA as well as growing attacks on the monarchy from Catalan leftist separatists.

11 October 2007

MADRID - (AFP) - Spain will mark its national day Friday amid tight security following a car bombing earlier this week blamed on ETA as well as growing attacks on the monarchy from Catalan leftist separatists.

Tuesday's blast in the northern city of Bilbao seriously injured a bodyguard protecting a local politician and it came five days after police sent to jail 19 top members of Basque separatist group ETA's outlawed political wing, Batasuna.

Earlier Tuesday Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba boosted security nationwide amid concern that ETA might stage an attack during Spain's national day festivities, with a military parade in Madrid seen as a possible target.

This date is "especially appealing" to ETA because of the group's desire to "condition the political, social and institutional agenda", the minister said.

The most senior Batasuna official still at liberty, Pernando Barrena, has called last week's arrests a "declaration of war" and warned of a new cycle of violence in Spain.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 819 people during almost four decades of its independence drive for the Basque region which they say includes parts of northern Spain and southwest France.

The armed group ended a 15-month-old ceasefire in June, after which the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero -- facing a general election in March 2008 -- adopted a harder line against it.

King Juan Carlos is scheduled to preside over the national day military parade that will take place in Madrid.

In recent weeks images of the king have been burned at small rallies in Catalonia by leftist protesters who support the independence of the rich northeastern region and see the monarch as a symbol of a centralised Spain.

Last week two hooded men hung a life-size mannequin with a crown and a photocopied picture of the king's face on it from the roof of Barcelona's Automous University, images broadcast on Spanish television showed.

The attacks on the king, who turns 70 in January, have not come solely from nationalists, who have never been keen on the crown.

Last month outspoken conservative commentator Federico Jimenez Losantos called on the king to abdicate in favour of his son Felipe in a broadcast made on the COPE radio station which is funded by the Roman Catholic Church.

The king took the unprecedented step at the start of the month of defending the monarchy's existence, saying during a speech that it had underpinned the longest period of prosperity and stability in Spain's democratic history.

"This could be background music for the far-right, for COPE or for radical leftist nationals but it (attacks on the king) does not reach the general population," sociologist Fermin Bouza of Madrid's Complutense University told AFP.

King Juan Carlos enjoys widespread popularity and is credited with helping to strengthen democracy in Spain following the death of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, especially after he thwarted a coup attempt in 1981.

The government has defended the monarch. Defence Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said Sunday that "no one from the extreme left to the extreme right" can question the monarchy, given the "strength" of the king.

But the leader of the conservative opposition Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, has accused the government of being weak in its defense of the king.

On Wednesday he called on Spaniards to show their pride in their country on their national day.

"My wish is that this year, for reasons that everyone knows, the people of Spain celebrate in a special way this day," he said.

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Subject: Spanish news

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