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Jailed leader of ETA's political wing urges 'permanent truce'

The jailed top leader of Batasuna, the banned political wing of ETA, said the Basque separatist group should declare a permanent ceasefire, in an interview published on Sunday.

ETA graffiti

ETA announced a ceasefire in September but did not say if it was permanent

Arnaldo Otegi, a jailed leader of ETA's banned political wing, told Spain's El Pais daily that if he had the ETA leadership before him, he would ask them to renounce violence and declare a "unilateral and permanent truce which can be verified by the international community."

"There is no other path to independence other than those that follow the peaceful and democratic paths," he told the newspaper.

"Weapons, all weapons, should disappear definitively from the Basque political equation," he added.

Otega, who was jailed for two years in March for "glorifying" terrorism in remarks he made at a 2005 rally, said ETA was not likely to resort to violence as it had announced "the end of armed action.

"But if these incidents resume (Batasuna) ... will oppose them," he said.

Zapatero: 'Actions count'

Batasuna was outlawed in 2003 for its links with ETA, which is held responsible for nearly 830 deaths in a 41-year campaign for independence for the Basque country of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Asked about Otegi's interview at a rally of his Socialist Party in the northern town of Ponferrada, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said his government had no plans to allow Batasuna to stand in the elections.

"These words are better than others, but what counts are actions," he said.

On September 5, ETA said it had decided to halt "armed offensive actions" but did not say if this truce was temporary or permanent.

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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