Only road for ETA is to end violence: Spanish PM

Sunday, January 14, 2007; 6:38 AM

MADRID (Reuters) - Armed Basque separatist group ETA must end violence and Spain needs a national consensus to reach that end, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in a newspaper interview on Sunday.

The interview with El Pais was the first Zapatero has given since ETA shattered the relative calm of a nine-month ceasefire with a massive car bomb at Madrid airport two weeks ago which left two dead.

Addressing those that practice violence, Zapatero quoted Austrian writer Stefan Zweig: "To kill is not to defend an idea, it's just killing," adding that the only future for ETA was the end of violence.

"The only thing that remains to be seen is how long they (ETA) want to prolong the inevitable -- an end to violence," Zapatero said.

The interview was published the day after hundreds of thousands of Spaniards took part in peace marches with around 200,000 attending the protest in Madrid with the slogan, "For peace, life and liberty and against terrorism."

Pressed on whether he would ever allow negotiations with ETA again, Zapatero said it was ETA who had broken the dialogue with their airport attack but side-stepped the question.

"What we have to talk about is the response that a legal state, that politics, can make to the situation that ETA has created."

Zapatero said that more people in the Basque country have to be won over to rejecting violence.

"We have to reach a great national consensus in the fight against terrorism," Zapatero said.

Zapatero has received widespread criticism for some of his actions since the bombing. Some felt he was slow to close the door on ETA, it took several days for him to visit the scene and he has referred to the attack as an "accident" twice.

Since the airport blast the government has broken off a peace process that many hoped would end ETA's violent campaign for a separate Basque homeland. More than 800 people have been killed in nearly four decades of violence.

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