March 22, 2006

Basque separatists declare ceasefire

MADRID (Reuters) - Basque separatist group ETA on Wednesday
declared a permanent ceasefire in its struggle for independence
from Spain with effect from Friday, Basque newspaper Gara said
on its Web site.

Gara is the group's usual vehicle for statements.

"ETA has decided to declare a ceasefire which will come
into effect on Friday and will be permanent," Gara said in a
special edition posted on its Web site

A ceasefire would be the first step in a long-awaited peace
process with ETA, which has killed 850 people since 1968 in its
fight to carve an independent state out of northern Spain and
southwestern France.

ETA, which is classed as a terrorist group by the United
States and the European Union, previously declared a full
ceasefire in September 1998. The group rescinded the ceasefire
in December 1999.

Gara quoted a message from ETA saying its aim was "to move
the democratic process forward in Euskal Herria (the Basque

It added it aimed to build a new framework in which the
rights of Basques as a people would be recognized.

Recently, ETA has set off only small bombs which have
caused slight damage and no deaths have occurred since 2003.