Zapatero demands more assurances from Basque separatists

17th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Sunday demanded that Basque separatists "take additional steps" to distance themselves from the ETA armed movement.

"They have advanced, but they must take additional steps, more decisive and firm, to reject, forget and make a definitive break with violence," Zapatero said at a rally of his socialist party in the Basque Country town of Durango.

Batasuna, still considered the political wing of ETA, has been banned since 2003.

It has gradually distanced itself from the armed struggle in recent months, founding a new party in January that explicitly rejects violence in the hope of standing in municipal elections in May, but Spain's top court last month turned down its application.

Batasuna still hopes to take part in the elections through an alliance with two legal parties.

"Democracy opens its doors to those who distance themselves definitively from violence," Zapatero said.

Zapatero also addressed a message to the ETA, saying: "We ask of them only one step, a step backwards, the definitive renunciation of violence, with no conditions."

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

The group announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006, but nine months later it set off a bomb in the carpark of Madrid's airport, killing two men.

It announced a "formal, verifiable" ceasefire on January 10, but Spain's government demanded it go further and disband entirely.

© 2011 AFP

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