Outlawed ETA group forms new party, rejects violence

ETA announced its rebirth as a new party that rejects violence.

Updated: Feb 08, 2011, 00:07 AM IST

Madrid: The outlawed political wing of armed
Basque separatists ETA announced its rebirth as a new
party that rejects violence and intends to contest elections.

Batasuna has been ruled illegal since 2003 because of its
links to ETA, whose bloody battle for a Basque homeland
independent of Spain has been blamed for 829 deaths in more
than four decades.

The outlawed party has previously said it opposes
violence without actually condemning ETA`s violent past.

The new party, which aims to contest local elections in
May, "rejects and opposes the use of violence... including
that of ETA," announced Basque nationalist Rufi Etxeberria, an
historic leader of Batasuna.

"It is therefore an explicit rejection of violence,"
Etxeberria said in Bilbao. "This is a direct consequence of
our commitment to exclusively political and democratic
routes."

The new principles were enshrined in the new statutes of
the party, the Batasuna leader added in his televised
appearance.

"These new statutes are in order to reclaim our legal
status," he said. "There is no going back."

Batasuna plans to present the new statutes to Spain`s
Interior Ministry on Wednesday.

Spain`s government has shown deep scepticism about
Batasuna`s conversion; it demands that Batasuna convince ETA
to disarm permanently and unconditionally or that it break
with ETA completely.

If the ministry refuses to accept the party`s new
statutes, as seems likely, the courts would have to decide.

ETA on January 10 declared a "permanent and general
ceasefire" to be verified by the international community.

But this, too, was received with scepticism in much of
Spain, largely because the statement made no mention of
disarming, and it contained political demands that assumed a
negotiating role for ETA.

Spain`s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has
been extremely prudent in its dealings with ETA, scarred by
the memories of its attempt to negotiate with the group five
years ago.

ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006
within the framework of negotiations with Madrid. But nine
months later, it set off a bomb in the carpark of
Madrid-Barajas airport, killing two men.

PTI