Basque separatists ETA to declare ceasefire
MADRID, Mar 22 (Reuters) Basque separatist group ETA plans to declare a permanent ceasefire from Friday, a report in the Basque newspaper Gara today said.
Gara is the group's usual vehicle for statements. The announcement was first made on Basque television.
A ceasefire would be the first step in a long-awaited peace process with ETA, which has killed 850 people since 1968 in its fight to carve an independent state out of northern Spain and south western France.
ETA, which is classed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, previously declared a full ceasefire in September 1998. The group rescinded the ceasefire in December 1999.
''ETA has decided to declare a ceasefire which will come into effect on Friday and will be permanent,'' Gara said in a special edition posted on its Web site www.gara.net.
Gara quoted a message from ETA saying its aim was ''to move the democratic process forward in Euskal Herria (the Basque Country)''.
It added it aimed to build a new framework in which the rights of Basques as a people would be recognised.
Recently, ETA has set off only small bombs which have caused slight damage and no deaths have occurred since 2003.
REUTERS DKS BS1751