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Basque separatists ETA to pledge to put arms beyond use - paper

Source: Reuters - Fri, 21 Feb 2014 11:42 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Arantza Goyoaga

BILBAO, Spain, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Armed Basque separatist group ETA will pledge to put its weapons "beyond use", the El Pais newspaper said on Friday, citing unnamed sources close to talks between ETA and an international monitoring group.

The international commission, set up in 2011 to monitor ETA's ceasefire, is due to give its first news conference at 2 p.m. (1300 GMT) in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao.

ETA, which has killed more than 800 people over more than four decades, proclaimed a ceasefire two years ago and has been severely weakened by hundreds of arrests and flagging support in Spain's northwestern Basque region.

ETA said in 2012 it wanted to start talks with the Spanish and French governments to negotiate a definitive end to military operations and a handover of its arms.

But Spain's then newly-elected conservative government, led by the People's Party's (PP) Mariano Rajoy, rejected offers of talks from ETA and demanded the group dissolve itself without conditions.

ETA, formed in 1959 during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco to fight for Basque self-determination, said in 2011 it would collaborate with the international group of monitors led by Ram Manikkalingam, a former advisor to the Sri Lankan government on negotiations with the Tamil Tiger separatist militants.

The monitoring group has been in the Basque region in recent days meeting local government officials and other representatives in the community. Other commission members have worked on peace processes in South Africa, the former Yugoslavia and northern Ireland. (Writing By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Jon Boyle/Ruth Pitchford)

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