Spain vows to press Venezuela over ETA allegations

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Madrid vowed Tuesday to press Caracas over the case of suspected ETA fighters who say they received weapons training in Venezuela, as the nation's ambassador cast doubt on the confessions.

"We are going to demand this cooperation" with Carcacas and "we are going to work so that this cooperation produces concrete action in compliance with judicial rulings," said Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega.

Spanish court documents released Monday showed that two suspected members of the armed Basque separatist movement ETA arrested in Spain last week have said they received weapons training in Venezuela.

During police questioning following their arrest, the two detainees, Juan Carlos Besance and Javier Atristain, said they took part in a training course in July and August 2008.

The course involved training in marksmanship, disassembling and cleaning guns and communicating in code, they said. It was offered by other ETA members in Venezuela as well as Chilean and Venezuelan citizens.

The foreign ministry in Caracas, however, insisted Venezuela's government "is not linked in any way with any terrorist organisation, especially ETA".

The Venezuelan ambassador to Spain, Isaias Rodriguez, said Tuesday that Caracas suspects the confessions may not be genuine.

"Venezuela has serious doubts that these declarations ... were totally voluntary" and they may have been part of "a strategy by the accused to reduce their sentences," he told a news conference.

"The supposed confessions may have been extracted irregularly, and if that is the case, they would have no probatory value," he said.

De la Vega told Cope radio that Spain would be "firm" with Caracas but dismissed any suggestion that the case could cause a break in diplomatic relations.

© 2010 AFP

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