Basque separatists plan rally during Sarkozy visit

24th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

BAYONNE, France, Aug 24, 2007 (AFP) - Basque separatists are planning a rally on Friday in southwestern France where President Nicolas Sarkozy is to meet police who carried out a recent wave of arrests of suspected militants.

BAYONNE, France, Aug 24, 2007 (AFP) - Basque separatists are planning a rally on Friday in southwestern France where President Nicolas Sarkozy is to meet police who carried out a recent wave of arrests of suspected militants.

The pro-independence Batasuna party, which is linked to the armed group ETA, said in a statement that the rally in the city of Bayonne would send a message to Sarkozy to "recognize and respect the Basque country" and press demands for greater autonomy.

Sarkozy is due to travel to Bayonne later in the day to meet with counter-terrorism police who have recently swooped down on several Basque activists in the region.

Sarkozy's government which took office in May has pledged its full cooperation with Spain in its fight against ETA militants.  Batasuna is banned in Spain, but not in France.

The visit was due to take place hours after a car bomb exploded outside a police barracks in Spain's northern Basque region, in what was believed to be the first attack by ETA since it ended a ceasefire in June.

Batasuna this week accused French and Spanish authorities of waging a "poisonous campaign" to curtail the party's international activities.

The accusation came after Juliano Cavaterra, 39, a Batasuna member, was detained Tuesday in Bayonne for allegedly distribution ETA's internal newsletter Zutabe. He was eventually released late Wednesday.

ETA declared a ceasefire in March last year but violated it on December 30 with a fatal bombing in Madrid.  The truce was formally called off on June 5.

Since the end of the truce 18 suspected ETA members have been arrested, including the armed groups logistics chief, and more than 300 kilogrammes (661 pounds) of explosives have been seized.

Fourteen of the arrests were carried out in France, which has long been used as a rear base by ETA.

AFP

Subject: French news

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