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Leading separatist says Basque peace process not possible

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Leading separatist says Basque peace process not possible


A leading militant has said the peace process in the Basque region is unviable, in the toughest warning yet that a ceasefire is in jeopardy. Arnaldo Otegi, spokesman for Batasuna, the outlawed body believed to be the political wing of ETA, took part in a protest outside the offices of the ruling Socialist Party in Bilbao.

He said Spain’s government had broken the conditions, on which the armed Basque group agreed to temporarily lay down its arms. “At this moment, the peace process is not possible,” Otegi said. Since ETA declared a cease-fire in March, there have been no promised peace talks with the government nor has the banned political wing Batasuna been made legal. Last month, the militants set a deadline for positive action on December twentieth, but still they are still waiting.

But Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has appealed for calm. Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, he said he believed peace could still be achieved. “All that’s needed is that all those talking about the difficulties linked to the peace process, need to start working to bring it about. That would be a lot more positive,” Prime Minister Zapatero said. But in the past month, pro-ETA violence has returned to Basque streets. Police recently arrested suspected members of the group, over the theft of hundreds of guns. With Basque country elections due for March, the region is holding its breath.

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