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Monday, August 21, 2006

Zapatero warns ETA: 'Play by democratic rules'

MADRID — The government warned ETA no political price will be paid for peace after the Basque terrorist group threatened to "respond" to the lack of progress that has been made since it declared a permanent ceasefire.

The administration reiterated that peace "will have no political price" and that whoever wants to participate in the normalization process in the Basque region will have to "play by the rules" of a democratic system.

In a statement, published on Friday in the Basque daily Gara, ETA blamed the PSOE and the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which holds the majority in the Basque government, for the "evident crisis situation" of the process begun

after the cease-fire, and threatened to respond.

The declaration was backed on Saturday by Batasuna, ETA's outlawed political arm, which also blamed Socialists and moderate nationalists of an "obstructionist" and "repressive" attitude, and of not being "equal to the circumstances."

In a press conference, Batasuna spokesperson Joseba Permach considered it a "manifest political irresponsibility" that the central government and the Basque government are giving little importance to the opinions of such a fundamental part of the process as ETA.

From the Canary Islands where he was attending a meeting of the Socialist Party on Saturday, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said "the only thing that is in total and definitive crisis is violence, whoever accommodates violence and whoever is behind violence".

The prime minister said that "the only road we are going to travel to achieve peace, to end the violence, is the road of legality and democracy, in each and every one of its principles, beginning with the Law of Political Parties."

"Whoever wants to defend his ideas democratically has a place in our democracy but in turn must respect legality," he said.

Opposition Popular Party spokesman Gabriel Elorriaga said that the ETA message shows that the government "has made a radical mistake" in its "strategy of dialogue" and called upon it to go back to "staunch combat" as the only way to finish off the terrorist group.

The equally conservative Association of Victims of Terrorism, or AVT, said the ETA statement proved it "is a group of killers that only understands the language of arms and suffering" and asked the government to give it "a forceful answer".

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