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TOWARD THE END OF ETA

Zapatero rules out concessions for ETA inmates before elections

Main parties concur new government must oversee end to terrorism

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero on Wednesday maintained that the definitive end to ETA would not be permitted to enter into the campaign sphere ahead of general elections on November 20.

At a meeting with Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) leader Iñigo Urkullu at the La Moncloa palace, Zapatero reiterated the line taken by Socialist Party candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba a day earlier that whichever party was in power after the elections would be charged with bringing about the final end to 43 years of violence by the terrorist organization.

Speaking on behalf of Zapatero, Cabinet Secretary Ramón Jáuregui said the government would not be entering into negotiations "to respect the institutional legitimacy of the government that arises from the elections." Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy has also backed this stance.

Urkullu's primary proposal is concessions for ETA inmates, particularly those in ill health, after last Thursday's declaration by the group, but Zapatero insisted the government would not be adopting any initiatives in that respect.

"We will continue to do what we have been doing," said Jáuregui. Some ETA prisoners with serious illnesses have recently been released, such as Ramón Foruria. At the meeting, Urkullu laid out a road map to peace in the Basque Country that the PNV has drawn up and which will involve all the main political parties.

The most important step, the PNV leader said, is the recognition of victims of terrorism. Urkullu said he hoped there would be a conciliatory move in this direction on the part of ETA and the abertzale left. The PNV has also called for inmates to be moved to the Basque Country and for the review of the so-called Parot Doctrine that allows for ETA prisoners' jail time to be lengthened as parole is applied to individual terms, even if sentences are being served concurrently.

The Socialist premier of the Basque Country, Patxi López, who met with Urkullu on Monday, continued his round table of talks Wednesday with the PP leader in the region, Antonio Basagoiti, who proposed a national and international congress on "freedom, citizenry and democracy to place human value above that of territories and exclusive identities."