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Spain prime minister claims he has no plans to call early elections

Spain's prime minister, reeling from news that armed Basque separatists have ended a cease-fire, said he had no plans to call early elections.

Before Tuesday's announcement by ETA that it was ending its 15-month truce  already shattered in practice by a deadly ETA bombing in December there had been speculation that Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero might move up the elections to pre-empt a loss of support over his government's risky but failed bid to negotiate peace with ETA.

The voting is currently scheduled for March 2008.

Zapatero ruled out any early vote as he spoke at a news conference with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"The elections will he held when they are due to be held, when the four-year term ends in March," Zapatero said.

The Socialist premier said one of his main goals now is to forge a common front against ETA with conservatives who have criticized him for negotiating with the group after it called the cease-fire in March of last year and refusing to rule out more talks even after ETA set off a bomb at Madrid airport in December, killing two people.

ETA said its truce ended Wednesday and it would be active "on all fronts to defend the Basque homeland."

"Facing this challenge with a truce or without one we have to join forces," Zapatero said. "We need maximum efficiency against ETA's terrorism and that can only be achieved through unity."

Zapatero is scheduled to meet Monday with conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy to discuss the Basque crisis.

In other fallout from the ETA announcement, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said a notorious ETA killer who was released from prison on March 1 after a hunger strike that left him gravely ill will be sent back to jail not home to serve out the rest of his prison term under police surveillance, a possibility that had initially been raised.

The inmate, Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos, has been declared healthy again and was removed Wednesday from the hospital in the Basque city of San Sebastian where he had been recovering from a 114-day hunger strike.

He has already served 18 years after being convicted in 25 deaths in a series of ETA attacks and now faces the last 14 months of a separate, three-year term for newspaper articles that were deemed to be terrorist threats. He is being sent to another prison but officials will not say where.

Perez Rubalcaba said in a radio interview that when he first agreed to move de Juana Chaos back in March, he did so out of humanitarian reasons. But with the ETA cease-fire over, he said, sending de Juana Chaos home is out of the question.

"It is evident that circumstances have changed with respect to that moment. The state has to be firm and intelligent, dealing with the new circumstances," Rubalcaba said.

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