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Basque group may call permanent, verifiable ceasefire

The Basque separatist group ETA has said it is ready to make a ceasefire called earlier this month "permanent and verifiable," according to a newspaper. However, the declaration appears to have been dismissed by Madrid.

A masked Spanish Civil Guard walks next to a wall painted with graffiti of the Basque separatist group ETA

ETA is blamed for 829 deaths over the last 40 years

The armed Basque separatist group ETA is prepared to observe a permanent and verifiable ceasefire, Basque newspaper Gara reported on its website Saturday, following interviews with two members.

When asked if they would commit to a permanent and verifiable ceasefire, the representatives said, "ETA is willing to take that step and also to go further" if the right conditions are met.

Masked ETA members make a video statement

ETA made a video statement earlier this month

"The goal is to resolve the [Basque] political conflict democratically, to close the wound forever, and in order to do that we are all obliged to act responsibly," the ETA members said.

Madrid questions ETA sincerity

The latest statement about a ceasefire, the third since the beginning of the month, appears to have been rejected by the government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The daily newspaper El Mundo quoted a government source as saying "statements and interviews are a waste of time, the only thing we're waiting for is a final end to violence."

Earlier on Saturday, ETA came under pressure to permanently renounce violence when its political wing, Batasuna, signed an agreement with other pro-independence parties on peace initiatives in the Basque region.

In a video declaration on September 5, ETA said it had decided stop armed offensive actions several months ago. The ceasefire was rejected by the government because there was no promise of a permanent end to violence.

Call for international mediation

On September 19, ETA said there should be international mediation to resolve the question of whether the Basque region, which is in northeastern Spain and southwestern France, should be granted independence.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

Zapatero's government seems lukewarm about the offer

Both statements did not include a promise to cease violence permanently and were dismissed by the Spanish government.

ETA has been severely weakened by a series of arrests of key members and action by Spanish, French and Portuguese police to locate arms caches.

The group is blamed for 829 deaths in a 40-year campaign of bombing and shooting and is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union.

Its most recent ceasefire was broken in 2006, with a bomb that killed two people at Madrid airport.

Author: Richard Connor (Reuters/AFP)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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