July 12, 2005

Bombs hit Spanish power plant after ETA warning

By Sonya Dowsett and Emma Pinedo

MADRID (Reuters) - Four bombs exploded on Tuesday near a
power station in Spain after a warning from Basque separatist
guerrillas ETA, officials said, the latest in a series of
attacks since the government offered peace talks.

The small blasts caused no injuries or damage at the plant
at Amorebieta in the Basque country, regional officials said.

Police said they had cleared the area after the warning,
which was given half an hour before the explosions, evacuating
more than 100 staff.

"The explosions were in scrubland within the perimeter of
the plant, but not in any of the buildings," a Basque
government spokesman said.

ETA, which wants an independent Basque state in northern
Spain and southwest France, has been blamed for several attacks
since the government offered in May to talk to the group if it
laid down its arms.

The guerrillas have given conflicting messages: amid a
series of bombings they called a ceasefire in June against
elected politicians. However, they said in an internal bulletin
that the truce did not include government members, according to
news reports.

Six members of ETA who urged the group last year to halt
attacks were expelled, newspapers reported on Sunday.

ETA has issued repeated calls for negotiations but the
government says the group it considers a terrorist organization
has to stop violence if it wants to talk.

The Basque regional government said after Tuesday's attack
that ETA, which has killed nearly 850 people since 1968, was
contradicting itself.

"ETA should know that actions like this open a breach and
an abyss in the commitment the group says it has to overcome
violence and reach peace," it said in a statement.

ETA has killed no one for about two years but attacks have
become more frequent since the government's talks offer, which
angered the opposition and many Spaniards.


The 800-megawatt plant that was the target of Tuesday's
bombs is jointly owned by Irish state-owned utility the
Electricity Supply Board (ESB) and Japanese gas distributor
Osaka Gas.

"It was in the final stages of its commissioning process,"
an ESB spokesman said. He declined to comment on whether the
explosions would delay full operation.

Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso condemned the attack
and pledged the government's determination to keep fighting

The government put its security forces on maximum alert
after last week's London bombings and said the army and police
would guard key sites such as energy installations.

ETA carried out a series of bombings of electricity lines
last summer in an attempt to disrupt Spain's infrastructure.

Its most recent attack was a car bomb outside a stadium
that was a key part of Madrid's unsuccessful bid for the 2012
Olympic Games.

Tuesday's bombs went off soon after a High Court judge
announced he would investigate possible links between ETA and a
regional communist party.

He will study whether the Communist Party of the Basque
Lands (PCTV), which performed well in regional elections in
May, became the guerrillas' political wing after separatist
party Batasuna was banned for representing ETA.