Basque guerrillas want to make truce permanent
Basque separatists ETA said yesterday that they were prepared to make "permanent and verifiable" a truce called earlier this month, even though the gesture was dismissed at the time by the Spanish government.
The group also said it was willing to take further steps towards a negotiated end to its violent campaign for independence, two members of the group told the Basque newspaper Gara in an interview to be published today.
"The objective is a democratic resolution of the conflict and to close the wound forever, and that means that everyone must act responsibly," the two ETA members said.
The truce offer has been widely dismissed by the government and other political parties because the rebel band gave no further substantiation and has broken such ceasefires without warning in the past. ETA, which has waged a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings that has claimed more than 850 lives, last week called for international mediation for a peaceful solution.
"ETA is willing to make the ceasefire permanent and verifiable, and to go further, if there are conditions to do so," the group said.
International mediation was crucial in the ending of the IRA's campaign in the North.
The 1998 agreement provided for disarming by paramilitaries and power sharing between rival republican and unionist forces after years of bloodshed.
ETA, whose acronym stands for "Basque Homeland and Freedom" in the Basque language, has been severely debilitated by the relentless arrests of key members and by the concerted action by Spanish, French and Portuguese police to search out arms caches.
The most recent ceasefire that ETA separatists broke was in 2006, with a deadly bomb attack at Madrid's Barajas airport.
Their last killing was that of a French policeman, who was trying to arrest ETA members as they tried to steal a car on the outskirts of Paris in March.