Spain, Portugal to step up cooperation against ETA

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LISBON, Oct 1 (Reuters) Spain and Portugal said today they would launch joint investigative teams to fight the Basque separatist group ETA.

ETA activists have traditionally holed up in southern France in their 40-year campaign of shootings and bombings to push for an independent Basque state in northern Spain.

But increasing pressure from French police made this more difficult in recent years, and now the Spanish government suspects the radicals could be using Portugal as a base.

''There is no proof that there are (ETA) infrastructures, even small ones, in Portugal, but it is a hypothesis we cannot exclude,'' Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told reporters, pointing to an attack in the Basque town of Durango.

Spanish police suspect ETA was behind a car bombing in August of a civil guard barracks in Durango and say a second vehicle, which they think was used as a getaway car, had Portuguese licence plates.

In June police found a car with Portuguese licence plates full of explosives about a mile from the Portuguese border.

Rubalcaba said Spain wanted one joint team to focus on the Durango attack and another to investigate all possible activities of ETA in Portugal. Details still needed to be worked out, he said.

REUTERS SKB BD1740

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