Spain awards Sarkozy for help in fight against ETA

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The Spanish government announced Friday that it would give a prestigious award to French President Nicolas Sarkozy for his cooperation in the fight against the armed Basque separatist group ETA.

The decoration, the Order of the Golden Fleece, salutes Sarkozy's "cooperation and involvement in the fight against terrorism," said government spokesman Jose Blanco.

ETA is listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

The Order of the Golden Fleece dates from 1430 and is awarded by Spain's monarch, currently King Juan Carlos.

After being weakened by a wave of arrests in both Spain and France, ETA last month renounced its armed campaign to create an independent Basque homeland straddling the Pyrenees in northern Spain and southern France.

On November 10 the group announced further that it may disarm, after four decades of violence that claimed 829 lives, but it wants its prisoners freed..

ETA also renewed its appeal for talks with the Spanish and French governments, neither of which has formally responded to the call for dialogue.

© 2011 AFP

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