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Spain urges Eta to disband as separatist group says it has given up weapons

Spain has said it will not offer anything in return for the disarmament of Basque separatist group Eta and urged the militants to disband and help police clear unsolved crimes.

In a letter on Friday to the BBC, Eta declared itself a weapons-free organisation after giving up its entire arsenal to civil society groups.

It confirmed the mediators would complete the disarmament on Saturday.

Spain said Eta does not need to be applauded for the move because the hard work of police and judges had already defeated the group, leading to a ceasefire in 2011.

The conservative government's cabinet spokesman, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, said that Eta members should help its victims' relatives by cooperating with hundreds of unresolved cases.

Eta has killed 829 people over 43 years of armed struggle.

"After giving up all its weaponry (arms and explosives) to Basque civil society representatives, it is now a disarmed organisation," the militant group said in the letter published by the BBC.

The letter, dated Friday and signed with Eta's seal, is the group's first public communique in more than five years, since it gave up the violence it waged to achieve an independent Basque state in southern France and northern Spain.

A group of activists self-appointed as "peace artisans" had already announced a disarmament strategy in south-western France, but Eta had not confirmed it directly.

Two of the mediators, speaking anonymously, said they considered Eta's statement legitimate.

Spain and France consider Eta to have been defeated and therefore refuse to engage in the disarmament process.

In the letter, Eta accuses both governments of being "stubborn" and persisting in a "winners and losers scheme".

It also warns that the disarmament could still be derailed.

"We want to warn that still the process can be attacked by the enemies of peace," Eta said, calling Saturday "disarmament day".

"The only real guarantee to succeed are the thousands of people gathering tomorrow in Bayonne supporting the disarmament," the group added, referring to the south-western French town where thousands of pro-Basque independence supporters are expected to take part in a demonstration to cap the disarmament.

Experts view the disarmament as symbolic, saying Eta's arsenal had already been diminished, with much of it obsolete.

Earlier on Thursday, the Basque regional parliament also called for a disarmament to be "unilateral, complete, definitive and verified".

AP

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