PP confident that Sortu will not be legalized

Opposition threatens to break antiterrorist accord with government over new 'abertzale' party

Despite public threats to break the antiterrorist pact with the government if the political organization Sortu is legalized, the opposition Popular Party (PP) said Thursday that it was confident that the Zapatero administration won't allow the group to gain legal status and field candidates in the May 22 regional elections.

According to PP sources, the Socialist government and the opposition leadership have been holding behind-the-scenes talks since the start of the week about attempts by the outlawed ETA-linked Batasuna to make a comeback in the form of Sortu, which applied for legal status Wednesday at the Interior Ministry.

"As long as ETA exists, Batasuna will be its financing arm," said PP communications director Esteban González Pons.

Earlier in the day, Ana Mato, the PP deputy secretary for organization, said that her party would withdraw from agreements with the Socialists if Sortu was given legal status. "If this happens, we're going to get angry and we will quit. We are not going to allow the Socialists to negotiate with ETA because that isn't a positive step to finish off the group, and we are not going to allow ETA to get another advantage over Spaniards."

The government has been under intense pressure — not only from the PP but also from other sectors — not to allow Sortu to register as a new political party, given that many of its members are former Batasuna officials.

If Interior Ministry officials consider that the new party is a continuation of Batasuna, they will have to ask prosecutors to file a complaint with the Supreme Court for its illegalization, which will lead to a long legal process.

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