US cautious on ETA end to violence

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The United States voiced caution Thursday after Basque separatists declared an end to decades of violence in Spain and said it was premature to take the ETA group off its terrorist blacklist.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner declined immediate comment on the video made by three hooded militants of Western Europe's last major violent secessionist group, saying it was assessing the reaction of Spain.

"We're not in a position at this time to determine the validity or seriousness or, frankly, the intent of the ETA announcement," Toner told reporters.

The spokesman said that the United States will "work closely with the Spanish government."

"We're supportive of their efforts to combat the terrorism of ETA," he said.

The United States classifies ETA, which is blamed for 829 deaths, as a foreign terrorist organization, which makes it a crime in the United States to provide material or financial support to the group.

"There is a very deliberate process for lifting that kind of designation. I'm not saying we're even at that point with ETA," Toner said.

In the statement on the website of Basque newspaper Gara, ETA announced a "definitive cease of its armed activity."

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero declared "a victory for democracy."

© 2011 AFP

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