Amid a resurgence in separatist violence, Spain’s prime minister is poised to, once again, reject a proposal for a referendum on the future of the Basque region. Jose Maria Rodriguez Zapatero met the Basque regional president in Madrid earlier. Juan Jose Ibarretxe wants the people in the restive northern area to vote on the right to choose their own future – interpreted as meaning the right to choose independence. Zapatero will reject the plan as illegal as only Madrid, as opposed to a regional body, can call a referendum.
Meanwhile a senior member of the Basque separatist party Batasun – seen as the political wing of armed group ETA – has been detained. Anti-terror judge Baltazar Garzon had ordered Asier Imaz’s arrest in a case linked to 17 Batasuna leaders who were arrested for wrongful association earlier this month. But police say an attack on a Spanish soldier, who was shot and wounded in the Basque city of San Sebastian, does not appear to be the work of ETA. A week earlier a car bomb in nearby Bilbao, blamed on ETA rebels, wounded the bodyguard of a local politician.