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US welcomes end to ETA violence

The United States on Friday said an announcement by the Basque separatist group ETA that it would renounce bombings and shootings raised hopes of a peaceful solution to decades of violence in the Spanish region.

US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor also remembered the victims of 40 years of violence, a day after ETA militants said they would halt attacks which have claimed 829 lives.

“Yesterday’s announcement by ETA in Spain that it has renounced violence holds out the prospect of a historic step toward peace, although there is a long road ahead to realize this promise,” Vietor said in a statement.

“In this moment of hope, our thoughts go out to the many victims who have suffered due to ETA’s actions over many decades.

“We recognize the courage of the Spanish government and the Spanish people in their enduring efforts to advance democracy and freedom in Spain and around the world.

“Spain and the United States are close allies in NATO and work together to promote shared values and interests within Europe and beyond,” Vietor added.

The United States classifies ETA as a foreign terrorist organization, which makes it a crime in the United States to provide material or financial support to the group.

Former US President Bill Clinton, husband of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on Thursday urged ETA to honor their verbal commitment to give up the armed struggle.

“By implementing an unconditional and complete renunciation of all violence, ETA can help pave the way for a better life for all affected by the last armed conflict in Europe,” he said in a written statement. “I urge ETA’s leadership to take this important step.”

In the statement Thursday on the website of Basque newspaper Gara, ETA announced a “definitive cease of its armed activity.”

But on Friday the leftist pro-Basque independence movement, while welcoming ETA’s declaration of an end to violence, said the political fight for self-determination goes on.

The end of armed action by ETA “does not suppose the end of the political conflict,” a spokesman for the movement, Maribi Ugarteburu, told a joint news conference with the movement’s leader, Rufino Etxeberria.