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Spain Welcomes End to ETA Violence


A man walks passes in front a wall painted with the anagram of the Basque separatist armed group ETA, reading '' ETA Together Always'' in Arbizu northern Spain, October 21, 2011.

A man walks passes in front a wall painted with the anagram of the Basque separatist armed group ETA, reading '' ETA Together Always'' in Arbizu northern Spain, October 21, 2011.

Spaniards are welcoming the news that the Basque separatist group ETA has declared an end to its bloody campaign for an independent homeland in Europe.

The opposition Popular Party and its leader, Mariano Rajoy, urged ETA to hand over its weapons and disband as an organization. Rajoy is expected to become Spain's next prime minister when general elections are held next month.

Civilians expressed relief that the end of the 43-year-old conflict is near.

The United States also welcomed ETA's declaration. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the announcement holds out the prospect of a historic step toward peace. He said thoughts go out to the victims of ETA's actions in recent decades.

France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, congratulated Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on ETA's cease-fire. Sarkozy called it a "victory for democracy over violence."

On Thursday, three ETA members made the declaration in a video posted online. They urged Spain and France to open talks with the aim of resolving the conflict.

ETA declared a unilateral cease-fire in January, but it was rejected by Spain's government because the separatist group made no pledge to lay down its arms.

ETA has killed at least 829 people in its bid to establish an independent homeland in the Basque regions of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Spain, the United States and the European Union all regard ETA as a terrorist group.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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