Spain's PM hopes quickly talks with ETA

Spain 's prime minister said Friday that if the government confirms that the Basque separatist group ETA's permanent cease-fire is authentic, he will push for peace talks in a matter of months. As Spain enjoyed the first day of the much-awaited cessation of violence by ETA, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the government will now seek to verify whether the cease-fire is sincere and accompanied by an end to other ETA tactics, such as extortion of business leaders and low-level street violence. Both continued during ETA's last truce, in 1998-99.

Speaking after a European Union summit in Brussels , Zapatero said he would live up to a pledge he made last May when he offered ETA talks if it renounced violence. He promised then that if ETA met conditions of total nonviolence, he would go before Parliament seeking its support for opening peace talks. "If the verification conditions I have just explained are met, the government will go before Parliament before the summer," Zapatero said Friday. It was his first public indication of how quickly he might move toward negotiations following ETA's cease-fire announcement Wednesday.

Zapatero also said the governments of Britain and Ireland with their experience with the IRA had offered to help Spain as it stands on the verge of a historic chance for peace. ETA violence claimed more than 800 lives since the group began fighting for an independent Basque homeland in the late 1960s.

A poll published Friday by the Instituto Opina said 80.2 percent of those questioned believe the government must explore the idea of negotiating with ETA. The poll surveyed 1,000 people and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, reports the AP.

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