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ETA 'willing to undergo mediation'

The armed Basque separatist group ETA has said it is willing to accept international mediation to help solve its long-running conflict with the Spanish government.

Two weeks after it announced a cease-fire, the group said in a statement published by Basque newspaper Gara that it is ready to "jointly explore" with overseas mediators the steps required for a democratic process, "including commitments to be taken by ETA".

Since launching its violent campaign for an independent Basque homeland in the late 1960s, ETA has killed more than 825 people.

The group previously announced what it called a permanent cease-fire in 2006, but ended it with a car bombing at Madrid's main airport that killed two people, and destroyed a parking garage later that year.

Spain's government has repeatedly said progress can only be made when ETA renounces violence for good.

ETA said it is prepared to consider proposals put forward in March by 19 people, including four Nobel peace laureates, in a document called the Brussels Declaration.

The document called on ETA to announce a permanent, unilateral, unconditional and internationally verifiable cease-fire. Among its signatories were former South African president FW De Klerk, archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Irish leaders Mary Robinson and John Hume.

ETA's statement in Gara, a pro-independence daily that often serves as ETA's mouthpiece, did not mention a permanent or verifiable cease-fire.

The statement comes a day after the Spanish newspaper El Pais released a video on its website believed to have been filmed by ETA earlier this year as a training aid which shows a hooded gunman practising assassination techniques by shooting into a car.

The newspaper did not reveal how it had acquired the video, but several TV news bulletins also showed the footage, which suggested that ETA was still training militants to kill.

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