Madrid: Spain`s Basque separatist movement ETA has insisted it has a "clear commitment" to overcome the armed conflict, in a statement published by the Basque newspaper Gara on Saturday.
ETA "has provided the opportunity to give a definitive democratic solution to political conflict, showing a clear commitment to overcome the armed conflict”, the statement in the separatist newspaper said.
Last January 10, ETA announced a permanent, verifiable ceasefire after more than 40 years of bloodshed, but Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero rejected the offer, demanding that the separatist group go further and disband entirely.
"ETA has opened wide doors to move into new fields of play," the ETA statement said, referring to the ceasefire.
But the group denied that the truce was a sign of weakness on its part.
"Much has been said here and there, on the essence of this decision," it said.
"Some have linked it to weakness, with the aim of promoting the dream of a police victory. Some others say it was forced by the decisions taken by the (Basque) nationalist left, trying to say that ETA did it reluctantly.”
"There are also those who, shamelessly, talk about the failure of a historic journey...And it is just as clear that if not for the enormous effort of the nationalist left ... the Basque nation may have died out long ago.”
"And there are some who, perversely, link it to the nationalist left`s desire to be in the elections."
The radical nationalist Basque Left is an informal grouping of militants from the ETA`s banned political wing Batasuna that has called for an end to separatist violence.
It has condemned a shootout in France last weekend in which two suspected ETA members opened fire on a policeman before being arrested.
ETA`s latest statement made no reference to the shooting.
ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.
The group had already 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.
Spain`s top court last month rejected an application by a new Basque pro-independence group, Sortu, to form a political party so that it can stand in local elections in May.
Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said on Friday that police are seeking a fourth man as part of an operation against ETA that has led to the country`s biggest ever seizure of explosives.
Police detained two brothers, aged 40 and 36, on Tuesday in the northern town of Legorreta on suspicion that they belonged to an ETA commando unit called "Erreka" that has been active for years.
Two days later they detained another man in San Sebastian.
Police also seized a total of 1.6 tonnes of explosives, mostly ammonium nitrate fertilizer, from five locations including the home of the two brothers who were detained on Tuesday.
Rubalcaba said it was "the most significant seizure ever carried out in Spain in terms of the amount of explosives”.