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Spain’s ETA presses for ‘informal’ ceasefire verification

Spain’s armed Basque secessionist movement ETA would accept “informal” international verification of the ceasefire it announced in January, the Basque newspaper Gara reported Sunday.

An ETA statement carried by Gara said that even though the ceasefire has not been “officially recognised” by the government, the Basque separatist group was “ready to accept an informal verification mechanism.”

“ETA believes that this is feasible and that an international verification commission could be set up,” it added.

Last January 10, ETA announced a permanent, verifiable ceasefire after more than 40 years of bloodshed, but Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero rejected the offer, demanding that the separatist group go further and disband entirely.

ETA said there were now two camps, that “of those who want to put in place a scenario of freedom” and that of “those who want to maintain force and stalemate”.

Its statement was released four days after Spain’s top court rejected an application by a new Basque pro-independence group to form a political party so that it can stand in local elections in May.

The Spanish government had asked the court to bar Sortu from electoral lists in municipal elections to be held in the Northern Basque country, arguing that it is a simple “extension” of the banned Batasuna party.

The Sortu party was launched in February by people close to Batasuna, ETA’s outlawed political wing that was banned in 2003, as a new party that rejects violence.

ETA’s campaign of bombings and shootings for a Basque homeland independent of Spain has been blamed for 829 deaths in more than four decades.

ETA had already announced a “permanent ceasefire” in March 2006 within the framework of negotiations with Madrid. But nine months later, it set off a bomb in the carpark of Madrid-Barajas airport, killing two men.