The French government said it has arrested the suspected military leader of the Basque terrorist group ETA near the Spanish border.  From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports for VOA the arrest marks a further blow for hardline members of ETA.

The French government said it had arrested suspected ETA miliatry leader Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina along with a female colleague early Monday in the Pyrenees region near the border with Spain.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie outlined some details of the arrests to French radio.

Alliot-Marie said Aspiazu Rubina - known by his alias Txeroki - was suspected of killing two young police officers a year ago.  Spain has also been hunting for him on suspicion of being behind a number of other attacks there.  They include a 2006 bombing of a Madrid airport that killed two people.

Both France and Spain have hailed the arrest as a blow to ETA, which is blamed for more than 800 deaths in Spain during its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque state.  Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said ETA was weaker and Spanish democracy was stronger because of the arrest.

Analysts said it further undermines ETA's hard-line leadership, which has already suffered from the arrests of a number of its members in recent years as part of stepped up French and Spanish efforts against the group.  Some experts believe the arrests may give voice to moderates in the Basque group who back dialogue rather than arms to achieve their aims.

ETA has been blamed for killing five people after renouncing a unilateral ceasefire in 2007.