ETA urged to declare truce by its political wing

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Batasuna, the banned political wing of the Basque separatist group ETA, and its ally, the tiny Eusko Alkartasuna party, have urged the outfit to declare a "permanent truce", Eusko Alkartasuna leader Pello Urizar confirmed Saturday.

"ETA has no choice but to respond positively and as soon as possible to this demand," he told reporters in the northern city of Vitoria.

Spanish media reported Friday that Batasuna and Eusko Alkartasuna had called on ETA to agree to a "permanent ceasefire under international verification" in a document outlining a "roadmap" for a peace process.

The document also called for negotiations between "all" Basque parties as well as the legalisation of Batasuna, which has been banned in Spain since 2003, daily Basque newspaper El Correo reported.

A spokesman for Eusko Alkartasuna interviewed by AFP confirmed the existence of the document, but refused to comment on the contents as it is currently the object of negotiations with other Basque political parties.

For several months Batasuna has been putting pressure on ETA to renounce its violence ahead of regional elections in the northern region of Spain in 2011.

The daily El Pais recently suggested that ETA could announce a ceasefire on September 27 to mark the day of the Basque soldier.

ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 and shortly after the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zaptero said it was launching tentative peace talks with the outfit.

But in December 2006 the group set off a bomb at a car park at Madrid's international airport, killing two men, and in June 2007 it formally called off its ceasefire citing a lack of concessions by the government in peace talks.

The government has since been sceptical over reaching a truce.

"The only thing we know is that ETA is not inclined to abandoning armed struggle," Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Friday.

Considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States, ETA is blamed for over 800 deaths in its four-decade campaign for independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.

© 2010 AFP

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