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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 February, 2004, 20:02 GMT
Eta declares Catalonia ceasefire
The video showing two apparent Eta members (Photo: courtesy EITB)
A video announcing the move was sent to Basque television (EITB)
The militant Basque separatist group Eta has declared a ceasefire for the Spanish region of Catalonia.

Eta said it had suspended "armed actions" in Catalonia as of 1 January 2004 in order to strengthen ties between the Basque and Catalan people.

The news, broadcast by regional media stations, comes weeks after Eta said it was extending its campaign against tourist targets in Spain.

Eta has killed more than 800 people in its campaign since the late 1960s.

Catalunya Radio broadcast a statement from Eta on Wednesday which said the group "had ceased all its activities in the region as of 1 January, 2004 with the aim of uniting ties between the Basque and Catalan peoples on the basis of respect, non-interference and solidarity".

These are traps for democracy, traps for freedom... They seek to undermine the fight against terrorism... but they will not succeed
Angel Acebes,
Spanish Interior Minister

Eta decided to carry out attacks in Catalonia against Spanish and French state interests in the region in the 1980s, the message said, but the political situation had now changed.

A three and a half minute video, sent to Basque public radio and television (EITB), was distributed to other media and broadcast later.

The video showed two apparent members of Eta, wearing white hoods and black berets, reading out the statement, which included "a revolutionary greeting to all the Catalan separatists".

The BBC's Katya Adler, in Madrid, said the Eta statement had sent shockwaves through Spain, which goes to the polls for general elections in March.

The Spanish government and other political parties have criticised the Eta statement.

Secret meeting

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who survived an ETA attack on him in 1995, bluntly rejected Eta's move.

He said the Spanish government rejected any negotiation with the group that did not involve its handover of weapons and the criminal prosecution of its members.

He also criticised the Republican Left of Catalonia party Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira for negotiating with the group.

Interior Minister Angel Acebes said the announcement was "repulsive to democracy, to reason, to freedom and especially to the victims of terrorism".

He described it as "a trap" by Eta to give the impression that it had an important role to play.

"We will continue with the same strategy, detaining members of the terrorist organisation."

Opposition leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, of the Socialist Party (PSOE) said: "This is inadmissible. I express my complete indignation at this communication."

He also forecast "consequences for the Catalan government".

Gaspar Llamazares, head of the United Left coalition, said: "The only statement I want from Eta is one saying it has broken up and stopped all armed activity in all of Spain."

The Eta statement follows a meeting between group's leaders and Mr Carod-Rovira last month.

Mr Carod-Rovira, whose party is pro-Catalan independence, was forced to resign from his post as second in charge of the regional government after details of the secret meeting emerged.

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