No government should negotiate with ETA, says ex-PM Aznar

Terrorist organization announces agenda of amnesty and disarmament as radical coalition challenges moderate PNV for Basque votes

Former Prime Minister José María Aznar said on Saturday that the new incoming government should not negotiate with ETA and must continue to enforce the Law of Political Parties to keep the Basque terrorists from organizing as a political force.

"ETA is defeated," Aznar said during a Popular Party (PP) campaign rally in Las Rozas. "What type of negotiations can you hold with a defeated party? None whatsoever.

"Spain is not going to pay the price to anyone who has killed," he said.

Aznar is taking a stronger position than he did when ETA announced a ceasefire in 1998, during his tenure as prime minister. At that time, he spoke of "dialogue and generosity" and proposed a Basque National Liberation Movement.

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In a 15-page interview for a radical publication, ETA said on Friday that amnesty for its convicts and the right to decide on independence must be key issues on the Basque political agenda now that it had announced a definitive end to its 43-year campaign of violence. Two spokesmen for the terrorist group that left over 800 dead and thousands injured also told Gara that disarmament is on its own agenda and that it is ready to make commitments, without specifying dates or details.

The interview marked the first time that ETA has admitted that its terrorist attacks caused suffering ("We are not insensitive"), but only as a side effect of an "armed conflict" that harks back to the Civil War (1936-1939).

But a majority of mainstream politicians considered the statements little more than an attempt to influence the upcoming November 20 general elections, in which a Basque pro-independence coalition named Amaiur is expected to obtain up to five deputies, recent opinion polls show.

The coalition, which includes members of the abertzale left - traditional ETA sympathizers who recently distanced themselves from violence in order to be readmitted into political life - is courting the vote of non-violent nationalists. "One has to wonder why they don't take steps, instead of just talking about them," said Josu Erkoreka of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), a moderate group that ruled the region between 1980 and 2009. "If they're really willing to disarm, let them disarm, period."

According to a Metroscopia voter intention poll for EL PAÍS following ETA's announcement, the Basque Socialists will go down from nine to five deputies, especially because of Amaiur, although it would still be the best supported party in the region.

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