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Eta ‘ready to talk’ surrender of arms

By Staff Reporter

Basque separatist group Eta, which renounced violence last month after 40 years, now says surrendering weapons is on its agenda.

The Basque newspaper Gara quoted two members as saying that the group — severely weakened by years of arrests — is prepared for the first time to negotiate over its arsenal.

“The issue of weapons is included on the negotiating agenda between Eta and the State and we are willing to talk about it and to undertake compromises in line with resolving all the consequences of the conflict,” they said in an interview with the paper.

No such negotiating agenda is known to exist, and the word ‘consequences’ is often interpreted as referring to the 700 Eta prisoners held in Spanish and French prisons.

The members asserted that Eta has not renounced its goal of an independent Basque state.

In a long-awaited statement on October 20 Eta declared a halt to its campaign of violence. It said it now backs only peaceful means of achieving its goal.

The group has killed 829 people since the late 1960s and is considered a terrorist group by Spain, the EU and the US.

In the interview, the Eta members said negotiations with the Spanish and French governments as part of its October 20 statement should centre on three issues: returning Eta prisoners to the Basque country; disarming Eta, and removing Spanish National Police from the region.

France is mentioned because the independent homeland Eta wants includes parts of south-west France.

General elections are scheduled for November 20 in Spain, and Eta could be trying to plug a pro-Basque independence coalition party, Amaiur.

Ramon Jauregui, outgoing prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's chief of staff, said disarming would be a “definitive verification” that Eta has renounced violence, but said the interview was aimed at reaping an “electoral premium” for Amaiur.

The conservative Popular Party, expected to win the elections, has ruled out any negotiations with Eta.

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