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ETA announces end to armed campaign.

Summary: The armed Basque separatist group ETA declared Thursday the "definitive" end to more than four decades of bombing and shooting for a homeland independent of Spain.

MADRID: The armed Basque separatist group ETA declared Thursday the "definitive" end to more than four decades of bombing and shooting for a homeland independent of Spain.

Three ETA militants dressed in black shirts with white hoods over their heads and black berets made the declaration in a video on the Basque newspaper Gara's website.

Sitting at a table with the band's emblem of the struggle -- an axe with a snake curled around it -- the masked activist in the center of the trio delivered the potentially historic announcement.

"ETA has decided the definitive [end to] its armed activity," the band said in a written statement accompanying the video, translated by the paper and published in Basque, Spanish, French and English.

"ETA calls upon the Spanish and French governments to open a process of a direct dialogue with the aim of addressing the resolution of the consequences of the conflict and, thus, to overcome the armed confrontation," the statement said.

"Through this historical declaration, ETA shows its clear, solid and definitive commitment."

The declaration could herald the end of Western Europe's last major violent secessionist group, blamed for 829 deaths, although it contains aspects the Spanish government will not welcome.

Madrid has refused to enter into talks with the band, insisting that it should dissolve itself unilaterally without any reward for what it considers a criminal campaign.

ETA, classed as a terrorist group by the European Union and United States, bemoaned the loss of its comrades in the decades of violence but made no clear apology to its own victims.

"This has not been an easy way. The cruelty of the fight has taken away the lives of many comrades. Many others are still suffering in prison and in exile," it said.

"For them, our deepest recognition and tribute."

The trigger for the announcement was a "peace conference" held in San Sebastian, northern Spain, Monday, which had called on ETA to renounce violence and for France and Spain to enter talks over the "consequences of the conflict."

Neither the Spanish government nor the outlawed ETA were at the conference, which included top peace negotiators such as Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party president Gerry Adams.

In a statement, Adams welcomed ETA's announcement and urged Spain and France to agree to talks including over "the issue of prisoners and of demilitarizing the environment."

ETA is calling for its imprisoned members to be placed in Basque Country jails instead of being spread around the country.

Other conference members included former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Irish Premier Bertie Ahern and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Bruntland.

ETA declared a unilateral cease-fire in January this year, but the Spanish government demanded the group make it definitive by surrendering its arms and disbanding.

Copyright 2011, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Oct 21, 2011
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