Spain's Prime Minister met Monday with the President of the Basque Regional government in an effort to coordinate the fight against terrorism.
Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and the Basque regional President Juan Jose Ibarretxe were in accord on the subject of terrorism but the two disagreed on the matter of Basque sovereignty.
The pair met for more than two hours at the Prime Minister's residence in Madrid. Mr. Ibarretxe, whose Basque National Party or PNV won regional elections in May on a pro-independence platform, made a proposal for increasing the Basque Country's autonomy. He said that he is committed to fighting terrorism, but also wants negotiations with the national government on sovereignty and self-rule. A spokesman for Mr. Aznar said afterwards, there is no room for breaking with the current political framework in Spain and repeated Mr. Anzar's strong opposition to a separate Basque state in the North.
The spokesman said the Prime Minister had laid out a plan of cooperation to defeat the violent separatist group ETA, and that until terrorism had ceased it is useless to talk of Basque independence.
The meeting occurred on a day when thousands of people in Spain's major cities held silent demonstrations against ETA violence. The protest was prompted by the death on Saturday of a general who was the victim of a terrorist bombing in June.
ETA's summer offensive is continuing. Last week a 22-year-old ETA activist blew herself up in a beach resort town on the Mediterranean coast, as she was preparing bombs. On Friday police deactived a car bomb loaded with more than 50 kilograms of explosives at M§Ňlaga's airport, gateway to Spain's famed Costa del Sol. In the Basque Country itself there are almost daily incidents of street violence and vandalism carried out by pro-ETA youth groups.