Zapatero admits to talks with ETA for first time

8th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

8 June 2007, MADRID - Spain's prime minister said there had been high-level talks with Basque group ETA in an attempt to defuse violent separatism in the country's troubled northern region.

8 June 2007

MADRID - Spain's prime minister said there had been high-level talks with Basque group ETA in an attempt to defuse violent separatism in the country's troubled northern region.

"There have been direct and indirect contacts during a short period," Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said during a television interview on Canal Cuatro station late Thursday.

Zapatero said he would not give details about the talks, in order to protect those involved.

"One has to have prudence because there are people who committed themselves a great deal, including people from outside our country to whom I am very grateful," Zapatero said.

This week, ETA announced the end of a 15-month self-imposed cease-fire, though it already had detonated a massive car bomb at Madrid's international airport on Dec. 30, demolishing a five-storey car park, killing two people and shattering any hope of a negotiated solution.

Zapatero broke off all contact with ETA following the explosion.

The prime minister said, however, that he still felt it had been his obligation as government leader to try for a negotiated end to violence.

ETA, which stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom, is accused of killing more than 800 people since 1968 in a violent campaign for independence from Spain.

"I would have wished to have had the backing other prime ministers had," Zapatero said in reference to heavy criticism from the opposition conservative Popular Party.

When in opposition Zapatero said he offered former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar his full support in efforts to eradicate terrorism from Spain.

The Popular Party, now led by Mariano Rajoy, claims Zapatero's government has shown weakness in trying to deal with ETA, which has been classified in Madrid, Brussels and Washington as a terrorist organization.

Rajoy was deeply critical of Zapatero for negotiating with ETA before it renounced violence and disarmed.

[Copyright AP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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