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Spanish Officials Analyze ETA Communique - 2001-10-29

Anti-terrorist experts in Spain are analyzing the latest communiqué issued by the Basque separatist group ETA. Spanish leaders have flatly rejected its demand for a referendum on Basque independence.

In a statement published on Sunday in the pro-independence Basque newspaper Gara, ETA said that peace was possible and that it would do everything within its power to assure that the conflict doesn't last another 20 years.

But the group also claimed responsibility for 11 attacks carried out since late July, including a car bomb explosion in the center of Madrid on October 12 that injured 17 people. ETA said they were aimed at Spain's economic and tourist interests.

The communiqué rejected Spanish Prime Minister Jose María Aznar's comparison of the group with international terrorism in the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. It said the comparison was like using missiles to kill flies.

ETA reiterated its demand that a referendum on independence be held in the Basque areas of France and Spain, saying the Basque conflict could be resolved democratically, by letting the people decide. The group furthermore lashed out at the moderate but pro-independence Basque Nationalist Party for suggesting that a referendum be held on whether ETA should continue to exist.

Prime Minister Aznar and other Spanish leaders have flatly rejected the separatist group's demands. During a speech to a party convention, Mr. Aznar described ETA as the last terrorist organization in Europe, now that the Irish Republican Army has begun to disarm.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 35 people since it ended a 14 month long truce at the end of 1999. But French and Spanish police say they have dealt serious blows to its infrastructure. Of 15 operative commandos at the beginning of last year, security experts say, just three still exist, and suspects in 23 deaths are behind bars.