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ETA Faction Hails Talks with Spain

ETA's political wing, the Batasuna Party, has hailed the Spanish government's announcement it would hold talks with the Basque terrorist group - which may end nearly four decades of separatist violence in Spain. Batasuna also wants the French government to be involved in the talks.

In a telephone interview Friday, a Batasuna Party spokesman Joseba Alvarez said Mr. Zapatero's decision to open talks with the ETA terrorist movement showed the Spanish prime minister respected the importance of achieving a political compromise in Spain's Basque country.

Alvarez said it is important that the French government enter into a similar dialogue with ETA. On Friday, the Batasuna party filed a petition for such talks at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. In the past, French officials have reacted coolly to the possibility of negotiating with ETA, but Alvarez said historically France tends to follow the Spanish governments policies toward the armed group.

ETA has waged a bloody, 38-year struggle to establish an independent Basque country in northern Spain and in southwestern France. And while all of the 800 ETA-related killings have taken place in Spain, French and Spanish authorities have cooperated closely in arresting and imprisoning suspected ETA members on both sides of the border.

Mr. Zapatero's decision to enter talks with ETA comes after the group announced a cease-fire in March. The prime minister's announcement was hailed by European Commission head, Jose Manuel Barroso, who said he hoped the talks would lead to the end of terrorism in Spain.

But many Spaniards are against any dialogue with ETA. So is Spain's main opposition Popular Party, which has criticized Mr. Zapatero's decision. Earlier this month, at least 200,000 people protested against such negotiations in Madrid. Alvarez, the Batasuna spokesman, believes the Popular Party will eventually have no other choice but to support dialogue with ETA.