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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 02:25 GMT 03:25 UK
Mexico hails rebel 'initiative'
Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos. File photo
Subcomandante Marcos has hinted at change
The Mexican authorities have welcomed the Zapatista rebels' apparent plan to renounce their armed struggle and take up political action.

President Vicente Fox's spokesman said there would be no legal hurdles for the rebels to join the mainstream politics.

The rebels on Monday issued a statement pledging to announce "a new political initiative" in the coming days.

The Zapatista campaign for more indigenous rights has been largely peaceful for more than 10 years.

The rebel group took up arms against the Mexican state in the south-eastern state of Chiapas - Mexico's poorest state - in January 1994, when at least 150 people died in clashes.

'Red alert'

Presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar told reporters that the rebel statement apparently aimed at joining the political life was good for the nation.

"We celebrate [it]," Mr Aguilar said.

"In no way will there be any legal impediment to the Zapatistas joining the political life of the country, through whatever organisation they decide to construct."

The spokesman added that the rebel move "opens the possibility for dialogue as an instrument to reach agreements".

The Zapatistas statement was issued from their Chiapas strongholds and signed by their military leader Subcomandante Marcos.

"With the approval and support of the broad majority of its members, the EZLN [Zapatista National Liberation Army] will undertake a new national and international political initiative," it said.

It followed another statement which last week put communities controlled by the rebels on a "red alert" while EZLN members gathered to discuss their future.

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