Basque separatists in northern Spain have launched a new political party they say rejects the violence of terrorist group ETA.
The party, whose name was not immediately announced, is the result of an intense internal debate among Basque groups which concluded that bombs and bullets were not the way to seek independence.
ETA's political wing Batasuna was outlawed in 2003 on grounds it was part of the militant group, and the new party appears to be an attempt to try and fill that void ahead of regional elections in May.
The Spanish government called the announcement “important news” but added a note of caution on whether the party should be legalised. It has repeatedly said Batasuna has to reject ETA in order to regain legal status and take part in Basque politics.
The government can allow the new party to stand or challenge it and ask prosecutors to investigate. Any decision on declaring the party illegal is ultimately up to a special section of the Supreme Court.
The announcement of the new party was made by a dozen pro-independence activists including several former members of banned pro-ETA groups. ETA's political supporters are desperate to field candidates in the regional elections as a way of recovering a pro-independence voice in Basque politics.
ETA declared a ceasefire in September last year and went a step further on January 10 by announcing it was permanent and that the group was willing to let it be verified by international observers.
ETA has killed more than 825 people since the late 1960s, but in recent years it has been hit by arrests and dwindling grassroots support.