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Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 17:54 UK

Spanish rivals secure Basque deal

Basque Socialist party leader Patxi Lopez in Bilbao (03 March 2009)
Socialist leader Patxi Lopez is expected to be the region's president

The northern Basque region of Spain is to have its first non-nationalist government in three decades.

Spain's governing Socialist Party (PSE) has signed a deal to form a regional administration with the opposition Popular Party (PP).

They have pledged to support Basque culture and increase funds to tackle the militant separatist group, Eta.

The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) lost office after failing to win an absolute majority in last month's elections.

This enabled the PSE, which came second, and the Conservative PP to lay aside their disagreements and form an informal coalition.

The deal will mean that, for the first time since the 1970s, the Basque Country will be run by a government which fully supports it remaining part of Spain.

The BBC's Steve Kingstone in Madrid says the two parties have no desire to loosen the Basque's constitutional ties with Madrid and strongly oppose plans put forward by the Nationalists to hold a referendum on sovereignty.

Socialist leader Patxi Lopez is expected to be sworn in as president of the region.

He had argued during his campaign that people in the region needed practical solutions to issues such as the economic crisis, rather than the sovereignty ambitions put forward by the Nationalists.

Eta unclear

Map of Basque Country

The struggle against Eta is a key point in the agreement between the parties, say analysts.

The incoming government has pledged to give more resources to the police to tackle the group, which has been blamed for the deaths of more than 820 people during its 40-year independence campaign.

Our correspondent says it is not yet clear what effect the change in government will have on Eta, with some analysts saying it is proof that the violent campaign has failed but others saying there could be an increase in attacks.

The parties have also said they will put the Spanish and Basque languages on an equal footing to address what some say is discrimination against non-Basque speakers.



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