Basque leaders back status plan
The Basque regional government in northern Spain has formally approved a proposal to redefine the region's relationship with the rest of the country.
Under the plan, the Basque country would become what they call a free-associated state, with its people voting on the sort of ties they want with Spain.
The plan's nationalist supporters say the Basque people have the right to decide their own future, their own foreign policy and be represented at European Union meetings separately from Spain.
The plan still needs the endorsement of the Basque regional parliament and approval in a referendum, scheduled for 2005.
The prime minister of Spain's Basque region, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, has denied that he wants to break away from Spain altogether.
"We, Basques, are going to decide with our vote our future. It's our right and nobody can prevent it," he said. "It is a historic day for our people. A commitment to Basque society to provide solutions."
But the central government and the opposition Socialists say the proposal threatens the stability Spain enjoys under its current constitution, and will legitimise the violence of the Basque separatist group, ETA.
Madrid says it will seek to stop the plan by both political and judicial means.
(From BBC News, 25.10.2003)