Saturday, September 19, 1998 Published at 06:52 GMT 07:52 UK
Aznar returns for 'urgent' ETA ceasefire talks
Government intends to see if Basque elections in October are incident free
Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has cut short a visit to Peru for urgent consultations over the ceasefire by the armed Basque separatist movement ETA.
On Thursday ETA issued a communique declaring a unilateral ceasefire, saying the Basque region had a unique opportunity to move towards independence from Spain.
Speaking before returning to Madrid, Mr Aznar, who survived an ETA assasination attempt in 1995, said there was no reason to believe that ETA's declaration would end the armed group's violent campaign.
"After 30 years of terrorist activity we cannot give ETA the benefit of the doubt," he said.
Initial opinion polls appeared to back the prime minister with 40% of those surveyed regarding ETA's move as a trick.
Nevertheless, ETA's ceasefire has generally been warmly welcomed in Spain by the church, the Socialist party and other Basque region parties.
In the past, the Spanish Government has insisted that before any negotiations could begin ETA would have to lay down its arms.
Demand for Basque independence
But the organisation added that it will continue to resupply itself, maintain its structures, and defend itself if attacked.
ETA also reasserts its demand for independence for the Basque country, but suggests that it is willing to enter peace talks.
There has been growing pressure from a broad range of groups for a peace process similar to initiatives which led to Northern Ireland's Good Friday agreement.
Our correspondent says ETA is understood to have been heavily influenced by the Northern Ireland peace process. Its political wing has been schooled by Sinn Fein on strategy for negotiation.
ETA has been blamed for more than 800 deaths in its 30-year fight for independence.
The organisation was still carrying out fatal attacks as recent as three months ago.
The latest casualty was a councillor from Spain's ruling Popular Party.