Spain against ETA political wing standing in elections

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The Spanish government is firmly against ETA's political wing taking part in next year's local elections, with suggestions of the Basque separatist group's demise premature, a minister said on Wednesday.

"We are not witnessing the end of ETA," said presidency minister Ramon Jauregui, referring to recent declarations by the group announcing a suspension of violence.

The process of winding down ETA would be very long, Jauregui said in interview with Antena 3 television.

ETA is classified as a terrorist organisation by the European Union, and it is responsible for the deaths of at least 829 people in its 40-year campaign for Basque independence.

Its political wing, Batasuna, has been banned since 2003 for refusing to condemn acts of violence by ETA, and will unveil a new party next month which it hopes will be allowed to stand in municipal elections next year.

"My opinion is that Batasuna will not be present in municipal elections," said Jauregui.

A court on Monday rejected a third request for liberty for Arnaldo Otegi, a key Bastuna figure jailed for attempting to secretly reconstitute the party.

Otegi said in a recent interview that violence was no longer compatable with the independence movement and called on ETA to agree to a permanent truce.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Otegi's remarks show improvement on his previous rhetoric, prompting speculation about a softening on the left-wing government's stance against Batasuna.

© 2010 AFP

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