The Spanish government has suffered a surprise setback in its bid to push ahead with the peace process with the Basque separatist group ETA. In a fiery exchange in parliament, the opposition conservative leader announced a breaking off all relations with the government of Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.Mariano Rajoy, whose Popular Party has up until now been involved in the peace process, accused Zapatero of giving in to ETA. He said he was withdrawing all support to the government to stop what he described as a blow to jurisdiction, democracy and the safety of Spaniards. Zapatero had been expected to announce the start of direct talks with the Basque separatist group. “In the democratic transition of our country,” he said, “the Socialist Party, either when it was in opposition or in government, never withdrew its support or broke off relations with the government, or with the opposition – not on matters of the state, life, freedom or the security of the Spanish people.¨ The Conservative Popular Party is protesting in particular against a move to enter into talks with ETA’s banned political wing Batasuna led by Arnaldo Otegi. ETA declared a permanent ceasefire on 22 March. It has been engaged in an armed campaign for more than 30 years.