Skepticism reigns over ceasefire as police keep up ETA pressure

Civil Guard arrest two terrorist suspects after Zapatero pledges to stay on guard

Monday's announcement of ETA that it would end its terrorist activities under a "permanent, general and verifiable" ceasefire has been met with guarded optimism among the Basque abertzale left, which had pressured ETA into the declaration, and with skepticism on the part of Spain's Socialist government.

"The ball is in Batasuna's court," said the president of the Basque Socialist Party Jesús Eguiguren, adding the government should "explore all the possibilities and leave no stone unturned to move ahead," in efforts to secure a lasting peace agreement.

Eusko Alkartasuna regional parliamentarian Juanjo Agirrezabala also defended the legalization of Batasuna, outlawed since 2002, to stand in local elections in May. "It's clear that ETA has shown, on this occasion, the will for a definitive end to violence. The government should respond to the demands of the Brussels declaration and the text of the Gernika accord." These documents call for a just and democratic solution to the question of home rule for the Basque region.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in an interview on Antena 3 on Monday night, stated that ETA's declaration "is useless." "They have yet to show sufficient conclusiveness and we will not permit any kind of deceit." The prime minister did add that "without any doubt we are on the verge of witnessing an end to violence."

On Batasuna's desire to stand in local elections, Zapatero reiterated the government's stance: "Either they condemn or reject violence or they cannot stand in elections. Either ETA lays down its arms or Batasuna rejects ETA; otherwise they cannot stand. That is the letter of the law."

ETA's last ceasefire announcement presaged 2006's fatal attack on Madrid's Barajas airport, in which two people were killed. Zapatero was unequivocal after the organization's latest promise to end attacks: "Let nobody think that the government is going to drop its guard."

Just hours after the announcement, two suspected ETA members were arrested ? one in Ciboure, France; the other in Zarautz, Guipúzcoa. Iraitz Guesalaga and his partner, Itxaso Valderrama, are suspected of being part of ETA's technical arm and in contact with FARC rebels in Colombia.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero tals to Antena 3's Gloria Lomana, shortly before the start of Monday night's interview.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero tals to Antena 3's Gloria Lomana, shortly before the start of Monday night's interview.EFE
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