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The armed Basque separatist group ETA warned Tuesday that the Spanish government's refusal to negotiate with its leaders will have "negative consequences" and "make it harder to find a solution to the conflict".
ETA, blamed for more than 800 deaths in a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for the independence of the Basque homeland which straddles northern Spain and southwestern France, announced a "definitive end" to its armed activity in October 2011.
But the group has not formally disarmed or disbanded as demanded by Madrid and Paris and the Spanish government has repeatedly declined to take part in talks with the outfit.
In a statement published in the website of Basque newspaper Gara, ETA called the Spanish government's refusal to take part in talks with its leaders in Norway "a step backwards" in the statement dated March 17 carried Tuesday by the online edition of its mouthpiece Gara.
Several ETA leaders have recently been expelled from Norway where they had met with international mediators and representatives of left-wing Basque independence movement, according to Spanish media reports.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy reiterated on March 13 his government's refusal to negotiate with the group, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.
ETA repeated that it was willing to talk of disarmament as part of an "agenda of dialogue" if certain conditions are met first, such as the regroupment of hundreds of ETA prisoners held in jails across Spain and France to the Basque region.
ETA has been weakened in recent years by a loss of support among Basque people, and repeated raids by Spanish and French security forces. Its last attack on Spanish soil was in August 2009.
© 2013 AFP
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