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Spain ready to talk peace with Basque separatists

The Spanish government is preparing a 'road map' for peace talks with the armed Basque separatist group ETA.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, Madrid
UPDATED ON MAR 27, 2006 06:16 PM IST

The Spanish government is preparing a "road map" for peace talks with the armed Basque separatist group ETA after it announced a "permanent ceasefire" last week, news reports said on Monday.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will seek parliament's authorisation for launching a peace process in June, if the government concludes that ETA is definitively laying down arms.

After that, the government would discuss with ETA the situation of its imprisoned activists, who number nearly 500 in Spain and 160 in France, according to the daily El Pais.

The prisoners, who are dispersed around Spain, will initially be transferred to jails in the Basque region, the daily said.

They are to be "reinserted" into normal life in a final phase of the peace process, which will also comprise talks between the Basque political parties about the region's future.

The government is also reportedly mulling ways to legalise ETA's political wing Batasuna, which was banned in 2002.

The Socialist government has the backing of all the Spanish parties except for the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP), whose leader Mariano Rajoy is scheduled to meet Zapatero on Tuesday.

If a peace process is launched as planned, it could bring an end to Western Europe's last armed nationalist conflict.

ETA has killed more than 800 people in its campaign for an independent Basque country comprising parts of northern Spain and southern France since 1968.

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