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ETA ready for talks on Basque future

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ETA ready for talks on Basque future

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The Basque separatist group ETA has said it is prepared to take part in political negotiations with the Spanish government. The organisation has adopted plans put forward two months ago by Batasuna, the party said to be its political wing. But ETA made no mention of laying down its arms.

At a party meeting last November, Batasuna leader Arnaldo Ortegi laid out proposals for what he called “exclusively political and democratic” talks to, as he said, “take the conflict off the streets”.

ETA, which is branded a terrorist group by Spain and the European Union, said it was essential that “the whole of society” could participate in the process. The Basque separatists have killed more than 800 people since their campaign for an independent homeland began in 1968.

Today they claimed responsibility for a further 23 attacks, none of them deadly. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has insisted there will be no dialogue without a ceasefire. The ruling Socialists are backed by all the major political parties in rejecting dialogue while ETA remains armed. Zapatero has also ruled out a plan from a regional leader which would give the Basque country a “status of free association”.