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Japanese editorial excerpts -2-.

TOKYO, Jan. 14 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the Japanese press:

ETA'S FATAL MISCALCULATIONS (The Japan Times, an English-language daily)

When is a ceasefire not a ceasefire? When it is punctuated by bombings. Yet, even after taking responsibility for a blast that killed two people, the Basque separatist group ETA claims that it is adhering to a permanent ceasefire declared in March.

That self-serving logic explains the failure of peace negotiations with the Spanish government better than the charges of obstructionism leveled by Basque militants at the Spanish government. There can be no halfhearted commitments to peaceful change. ETA and its political supporters must unconditionally renounce violence to be credible negotiating partners.

Basque Country is made up of seven provinces in northern Spain and southwest France. Its inhabitants have long chafed under rule from Madrid; they believe that the local language and culture have been suppressed by the central government.

More than 800 people have been killed by the group during a violent four-decade campaign to win freedom for the region. In recent years, the Spanish government has negotiated with Batasuna, a banned political group considered the political arm of the ETA, over some form of autonomy for the Basques. To expedite the process, ETA announced the ceasefire last March.

That ceasefire was broken Dec. 30, when a bomb exploded in a car park at Madrid's airport. The blast leveled a five-story building, killed two men -- Ecuadoreans thought to have been sleeping in their cars -- and wounded 19 others.

It is in keeping with that twisted logic that ETA could blame the government for the fatalities, saying the authorities did not fully clear the area after three warning calls. Moreover, the Madrid government was to blame for ''continually creating obstacles to the peace process'' and the Basque regional nationalist government was also complicit for backing Madrid.

The first response of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was to ''suspend'' the political dialogue. He may have been hoping for outright condemnation of the bombing from Batasuna, which would have given him cover to continue discussions, but the political group hedged and merely called on ETA to observe the ceasefire. Madrid has made the renunciation of violence by Batasuna a precondition for the party's re-legalization, but the group refuses to take that step.

It is hard to see how there can be real peace discussions when one party feels free to use violence as it sees fit. Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba has said that ETA must renounce violence if the talks are to resume, but ETA retorted that it was the government that had not kept its commitments and was not negotiating in good faith.

ETA clearly does not understand that the majority of Spanish people may be sympathetic to Basque grievances but will not tolerate bloodshed. It does not understand that they will not tolerate a double standard: ETA cannot resort to terrorism while claiming to honor a ceasefire.

Progress can be made, but only when the ETA commits to peaceful change. The Basque people must take responsibility for their predicament. Spain has changed, so must the Basques.

(Jan. 14)
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Publication:Asian Political News
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 15, 2007
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