Basque Socialists challenge PM's hard line on Sortu

Party chief in northern region says Zapatero "lacks courage"

The government's stance on Sortu - the political heir to the outlawed Batasuna Basque radical left grouping, which has rejected ETA violence in a bid to run in upcoming municipal elections - has caused a rift between the central Socialist Party and its Basque counterpart.

In an opinion article published today in EL PAÍS, the president of the Basque Socialist Party, Jesús Eguiguren, accuses José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of a "lack of courage" in his approach to Sortu. Eguiguren also charges that the prime minister's antiterrorist policies are designed "to not upset the right." ETA is currently observing a ceasefire.

Eguiguren writes of his concern that the peace process is being derailed by government inaction: "No serious politician can forget that these things are not irreversible, that through politics and institutions decisive things can be done to facilitate, complicate or leave this evolution to decay."

In a further blow to the unity of the Socialist Party, Patxi López, the Basque regional premier, also stated that Zapatero's belief that Sortu cannot be legalized prior to the complete disappearance of ETA is mistaken.

"Sortu is not ETA," López said.

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