Thu, Jan 04, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Peace process with ETA `broken'

THE GUARDIAN , MADRID

A flattened car is removed from the wreckage of the Barajas international airport car park in Madrid, Spain, on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

Spain's governing Socialist party said on Tuesday yesterday that the peace process with the Basque separatist group ETA had been "broken" by the killings of two people in a bomb blast at a Madrid airport over the weekend.

"It is broken, because that is what the terrorists of [the] ETA want," party spokesman Jose Blanco said as firefighters continued to search for the bodies of two men buried since Saturday under the rubble of the car park at Barajas airport.

His comments came after the Socialist party leadership met yesterday to discuss the ETA's first killings for more than three years. Blanco said there was no longer any sign that the ETA, which had called a ceasefire in March, was prepared to talk.

"[The] ETA's will to talk has been buried under the rubble at Barajas," he said.

Blanco did not say, however, whether the peace process that was launched last year was dead or whether this was simply one of the "difficult patches" that Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had warned of when it first started.

Zapatero said at the weekend that he had "suspended" plans to negotiate with the ETA, rather than calling them off altogether. That has angered the conservative opposition People's party, which has been against the peace process from the start.

Ignacio Astarloa, the party's top official for security issues, on Tuesday called on Zapatero to "return to reality, with all the harshness that reality has."

Spokespersons from Batasuna, the banned pro-ETA party, have been claiming that the bomb blast and killings did not mean any significant change in the peace process.

"The process has not been broken," party spokesman Arnaldo Otegi said. "This does not send us back to the situation before March [and the ceasefire]."

Spanish Attorney General Candido Conde-Pumpido yesterday called the bomb blast a "setback."

"[The] ETA's time for terrorism has run out for ever and the situation is irreversible. I think [the] ETA has been defeated and we are at its funeral," Conde-Pumpido told the El Mundo newspaper.

Rescue workers said on Tuesday that they were getting close to the area where the victims were thought to be buried.

The men, both Ecuadorian migrants, were asleep in their cars when the 200kg bomb levelled the multistory car park on Saturday morning, apparently unaware of an ongoing police operation to clear the car park after several telephone warnings from the ETA during the hour before the blast.

Firefighters warned yesterday that some cars had been flattened during the collapse of the five-storey car park, part of a new terminal complex designed by architect Richard Rogers.

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