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ETA issues statement on laying down arms

The Basque separatists had earlier announced a truce spurring hopes of an end to nearly four decades of violence.
None | By Press Trust of India, Madrid
PUBLISHED ON MAR 23, 2006 03:41 PM IST

Basque separatist group ETA issued a second statement on Thursday, reaffirming the group's willingness to lay down arms.

The statement, sent to radical Basque daily 'Gara', said that the ceasefire would begin at midnight later on Thursday.

On Wednesday, ETA announced a permanent ceasefire, spurring hopes of an end to nearly four decades of violence that claimed more than 800 lives.

ETA "has decided to declare a permanent cease-fire" beginning at midnight, said the statement, which was also published on Gara's website in Basque, Spanish and French.

It said that at the end of "this process the Basque citizens should have the say and decision over their future, bringing about a democratic resolution to the conflict."

The second statement repeated almost word for word the one that was released yesterday.

The group called on Spain and France to cooperate in reaching a negotiated end to the region's troubles.

News of the ceasefire dominated the front pages of all Spanish dailies. Newspapers in the Basque country included special pages with the history of ETA and its decades-long conflict.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has made granting more rule to Spain's regions a key goal, expressed caution and hope at ETA's statement.

He was evasive when asked if he would start negotiating with ETA under an offer he made last year, contingent on the group renouncing violence.

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