Thousands rally in Spain

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Thousands marched in Spain on Saturday, calling for a political solution for the Basque country following separatist group ETA's historic announcement that it was to end its armed fight.

Demonstrators in Bilbao shouted "independence" at the gathering instigated by several leftist, pro-independence parties, unions and signatories of last year's Guernica agreement which called for an end to ETA violence.

The march was called before Thursday's announcement and was directed at everyone, "whatever their political colour."

Peace is an aspiration of the majority of people, organisers said, and "a complete, democratic and definitive peace will not be possible without the support and the participation of society."

"The main thing is a lack of democracy," said 64-year-old retiree Juan Jose Sainz.

"Those who are in prison, not for a crime but for their views, should be released," he said.

"The situation won't change. The only thing is that there will be no more ETA. The Basque people's conflict continues, and we hope that it's the beginning of a solution to the conflict," said 41-year-old Miren, who did not want to give her surname.

The Basque pro-independence political movement has welcomed ETA's declaration but said the political fight for self-determination would go on.

In Thursday's video announcement, three white-hooded ETA militants brought an end to a campaign that has claimed 829 lives since its birth in 1959 during General Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

© 2011 AFP

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