There is growing speculation that the armed Basque separatist group ETA could be on the brink of announcing a ceasefire. While hopes for peace may have been shaken by a bomb blast in an industrial area near Bilbao last night – no one was injured – the explosion is unlikely to put a stop to Spanish newspaper reports that an imminent breakthrough is likely.The Basque Country’s moderate nationalist premier, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, appeared to give credence to the press coverage. “We have always been ready for bad news. Now we can be ready for good news. We are getting ready to talk about an ETA ceasefire,” he said. He added that several dates have been talked about recently as the start of a possible truce. Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has repeatedly spoken optimistically about the chances of an end to ETA violence – ever since last May when parliament in Madrid approved his proposal to offer talks to the group if it abandoned violence. However Angel Acebes of the opposition conservative Popular Party is bitterly opposed to such contact. Speaking of the armed Basque separatists he said: “To offer every single day to go to the negotiating table instead of taking them to court, gives them hope and this is a big mistake, whatever happens in the days to come.” Branded a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, ETA has killed some 850 people since 1968 in a campaign for an independent state carved out of northern Spain and south-western France.