Basque government in Spain calls ETA cease-fire meaningless

By Daniel Woolls and Harold Heckle
Sunday, September 5, 2010; 8:08 PM

MADRID - The armed Basque separatist group ETA, under pressure from political allies to renounce violence and weakened repeatedly by the arrests of its leaders, announced another cease-fire Sunday, suggesting it might turn to a political process in its quest for an independent homeland.

But the Basque regional government immediately dismissed the announcement as meaningless because ETA had not renounced violence or announced its dissolution.

"It's absolutely insufficient because it does not take into account what the vast majority of Basque society demands and requires from ETA, which is that it definitively abandon terrorist activity," Basque regional interior minister Rodolfo Ares said of the announcement.

Spaniards also expressed skepticism, saying they have seen ETA cease-fires come and go.

"We give them very little credibility," said Angeles Pedraza, president of the Association of Victims of Terrorism. "Actually, we give them none at all. We are already used to this."

The new pledge from ETA, which has been fighting for an independent homeland in parts of northern Spain and southwestern France since the late 1960s, left several key questions unanswered. Besides silence on whether it will surrender its weapons, it did not say if the truce was open-ended and permanent, like one declared in 2006, or whether it would stop other activities such as extorting money from business leaders or recruiting members.

Nor was there any mention of whether the cease-fire could be monitored by international observers, as called for Friday by two Basque parties that back independence: ETA's outlawed political wing, Batasuna, and a more moderate pro-independence party called Eusko Alkartasuna.

Since late last year, divisions have widened between ETA and the political parties that support it. Jailed ETA veterans have also been distancing themselves from the group, and enhanced French police cooperation has proved crucial in recent years in a neighboring country that used to serve as a haven for ETA.

Friday's statement by those two parties was significant in that it marked the first time they had put down in writing that they wanted ETA to work toward independence through peaceful means, rather than with violence.

- Associated Press

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