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Zapatero and Rajoy find common ground over ETA

11 June 2007

MADRID – Spain’s prime minister and its conservative opposition leader, at odds over how to do away with the Basque separatist group ETA, made progress Monday on forging a united front now that ETA has called off a cease-fire, a government official said.

Both sides offered upbeat-sounding assessments of a meeting that had been
expected to end in acrimony.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero launched negotiations with
ETA after it declared a truce in March 2006, only to see ETA complain about a
lack of concessions, detonate a car bomb that killed two people in December and
declare the cease-fire formally over last week.

This set the stage for a resumption of ETA attacks, placing police on high alert.
Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Popular Party has angrily
accused Zapatero of yielding to terrorism when ETA was at its weakest point in
years, and insisted instead the government crush ETA with police raids and jail
terms. Without this, he has said, Zapatero could expect no support from the

Their meeting Monday _ the first since ETA called off the truce _ had been
expected by many to be an unproductive dialogue.

But Rajoy came out of it refraining from criticizing the prime minister. “This
is not the time for reproaches, or for talking about the prime minister’s
credibility,” he told a news conference.

Rajoy said he would support the government so long as its goal was to defeat
ETA, not try again to negotiate.

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, briefing reporters on
the meeting, called it very positive.

Zapatero offered to stay in closer touch with Rajoy personally and with his
party over the fight against ETA, and work with the conservatives to defeat the
group, she said.

Asked if Zapatero gave Rajoy assurances he would not seek again to negotiate
with ETA, she insisted the government’s goal is to defeat it.

“Certainly, at this time there is no scenario but this one. There is no scenario in which one can speak of anything but fighting and defeating ETA. This is what the prime
minister expressed to Mr. Rajoy.”

“In this meeting, a first, important step was taken toward recovering trust and
working with the greatest possible unity,” Fernandez de la Vega said.

“This unity is key, she said, “because at a time which is difficult for
everyone, Spanish society would not understand if not everyone joined in for the
good of Spain.”

[Copyright AP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news