ETA must provide proof if it renounces violence: Spain

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Spain will demand hard proof if Basque independence fighters ETA ever renounce violence for good, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero warned Friday.

"We have no clear information about ETA's intentions," said Zapatero, who rejected a September 5 ceasefire declaration by ETA because it failed to promise a permanent end to attacks.

Zapatero denied his government was in contact, directly or indirectly, with ETA, saying the only information he had about the group came from the security services.

"Since we do not have any definite information, given our history, we cannot trust them ... they know this very well," he told Spain's Cadena Ser radio.

"The level of distrust is high, proof will have to be put on the table so that democracy and the government can be convinced that they are going to renounce violence," Zapatero said.

"The proof will have to be very exacting, that is what I want them to understand."

ETA, listed as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, is blamed for 829 deaths in its 42-year campaign for independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.

ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 but broke the truce later the same year, setting off a bomb in Madrid airport's car park that killed two people.

Zapatero said ETA's banned political wing, Batasuna, must fulfil two conditions if it wants to take part in elections.

"ETA must firmly condemn violence and therefore no longer remain in a zone of ambiguity," he said. "And ETA must disappear for ever."

Asked about the government response if ETA went a step further and renounced violence for good, Zapatero said he would consult with opposition political parties to find a common position.

© 2010 AFP

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