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ETA calls end to armed campaign

The Basque armed group ETA has issued a statement saying it is ending its 43-year armed campaign for independence, and calling on Spain and France to open talks.

The group made the announcement in a statement to the Basque daily Gara, which it regularly uses as a mouthpiece.

ETA declared a permanent ceasefire in January but until now had not renounced armed struggle as a tool for achieving an independent Basque state, a key demand by the Spanish government.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams immediately said he welcomed ETA's statement.

ETA has killed 829 people in bombings and shootings since the late 1960s.

It is classified as a terrorist organisation by Spain, the European Union and the US.

"ETA has decided the definitive cease of its armed activity," the group said in the statement. "ETA calls upon the Spanish and French governments to open a process of a direct dialogue with the aim of addressing the resolution of the consequences of the conflict."

The announcement came just three days after several international figures, including Mr Adams and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, attended a conference on ETA in the Basque city of San Sebastian and called on the group to end violence.

Following its statement, Mr Adams said: "We called upon ETA to make a public declaration of the definitive cessation of all armed action and to request talks with the governments of Spain and France to address exclusively the consequences of the conflict.

"I believe that their statement today meets that requirement and I would urge the governments of Spain and France to welcome it and agree to talks exclusively to deal with the consequences of the conflict."

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