Basque separatists ETA call permanent ceasefire
MADRID (Reuters) - Basque separatist group ETA called a permanent cease-fire on Monday, Basque regional newspaper Gara said on its website, three months after the weakened group announced a halt to armed attacks.
The group, which has killed more than 850 people in half a century of armed struggle for an independent state in northern Spain and southwest France, has been crippled by arrests and a rise in support among Basques for legal politics.
"ETA has decided to declare a permanent and general cease-fire which will be verifiable by the international community," the group said in an English-language statement on www.gara.net.
"This is ETA's firm commitment towards a process to achieve a lasting resolution and towards an end to the armed confrontation," the statement said.
A spokeswoman for Spain's interior ministry said the government would comment later in the day.
Rumours of an ETA truce circled during December, but Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba repeatedly said the government would not change its strategy on ETA because of a cease-fire.
"This truce thing doesn't work anymore," Rubalcaba told reporters in mid-December after a weekly cabinet meeting.
ETA has broken ceasefires several times in the past, most recently in 2006 when a truce was ended by a deadly bomb attack at Madrid's airport. Past ceasefires have been seen by analysts as attempts by the organisation to regroup with a view to launching further attacks.
(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz)
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