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Nationalists hand over power in Basque country

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Nationalists hand over power in Basque country

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A socialist-led government is to be sworn in today in the Basque parliament, ending three decades of nationalist domination.

Socialist leader Patxi Lopez forged an alliance with the centre-right Popular Party last week. The nationalist party of Juan Jose Ibarretxe came first in elections in March, but lost the overall majority that has kept it in power for so long. The new centre right/centre left coalition gives the Basque region a government that supports Spanish sovereignty for the first time since 1979. Lopez has said that his priority will be ending ETA’s violent campaign for a separate Basque state. That 40-year struggle has cost more than 800 lives but the armed group has been weakened in recent months by the arrests of successive leaders in France. There has been some speculation that ETA’s new leadership may be more open to dialogue with the government.