dimecres, 18 de febrer del 2004

ETA declares limited cease-fire

Wednesday, February 18, 2004 Posted: 9:18 AM EST (1418 GMT)

The Basque separatist group ETA has declared a limited cease-fire ahead of next month's Spanish general elections.

In a statement read on regional radio Wednesday, ETA said the cease-fire -- limited to the Catalonia region in the northeast of the country -- had been in place since January 1 but did not say when it would end.

The group, which last declared a 14-month cease-fire in 1998, said it was motivated by "a desire to unite the ties between the Basque and Catalan peoples."

ETA is blamed for more than 800 killings in its 35-year fight for a Basque homeland in northwest Spain. It is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, of which Spain is a member.

Wednesday's move is seen as an encouragement to separatists in northeastern Spain, where Catalonians speak a separate language alongside Spanish.

Interior Minister Angel Acebes described the move as "a trap" and said it was trying to give the impression it had an important role to play.

"It's an announcement which is repulsive to democracy, to reason, to freedom and especially to the victims of terrorism," The Associated Press quoted Acebes as saying.

Others said ETA needed to go much further.

"The only statement I want from ETA is one saying it has broken up and stopped all armed activity in all of Spain," Gaspar Llamazares, head of the United Left coalition, Spain's fourth-ranking political group, told AP.