Spain dismisses Eta ceasefire as 'insufficient'

It is not clear whether the ceasefire is permanent or temporary

The Spanish government has dismissed as "insufficient" a ceasefire by Eta, saying the Basque separatist group must renounce violence forever.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the group was weaker than ever and his government would continue to pursue its members.

At the weekend Eta said it would no longer carry out "armed actions".

Its campaign for a separate Basque state has led to more than 820 deaths over the past 40 years.

Eta has called two ceasefires in the past but abandoned them both. It is unclear whether the latest is meant as a permanent or temporary move.

Mr Rubalcaba said Eta had broken too many ceasefires to be trusted and the days of declaring a truce and starting a dialogue had passed.

"I think the word insufficient reflects quite well the position not (just) of the government but of all the democratic parties," he told Spain's state-run TVE television station on Monday.

'Dead concept'

Mr Rubalcaba demanded "a definitive and unconditional abandonment" of Eta's violent campaign.

Start Quote

We are not going to change a dot or a comma in our anti-terrorist policy”

End Quote Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba Spanish Interior Minister

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Madrid says this is a hardline response that effectively rules out peace talks.

In a video handed to the BBC and broadcast on Sunday, three hooded Eta fighters are shown sitting behind a desk with the Eta flag pinned up behind them.

One reads out a statement defending Eta's campaign of violence, but towards the end says the group now wants to achieve its aims by peaceful means.

"Eta confirms its commitment to finding a democratic solution to the conflict," the statement says.

It adds that the group is seeking dialogue with the Spanish government.

But Mr Rubalcaba said the word ceasefire was now "a dead concept", and noted that a 2006 Eta bomb attack that killed two people at Madrid airport had followed a truce declaration.

He said Eta's current weakness was the reason for the video declaration, adding: "We are not going to change a dot or a comma in our anti-terrorist policy."

The video came after the arrests of numerous Eta leaders.

Our correspondent says many believe it is an attempt to persuade Spain to allow Eta's political wing Batasuna back into the political process.

But the interior minister stressed that Batasuna had been banned by courts because of its links to Eta - so the only way back to legality was to cut those ties for good or persuade Eta to renounce violence definitively, he said.

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