Aznar says goverment stance against ETA won't change after separatist killing

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The Independent Online

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar visited Spain's Basque region Sunday, saying attacks by the separatist group ETA will not change the government's tough line on the armed group.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar visited Spain's Basque region Sunday, saying attacks by the separatist group ETA will not change the government's tough line on the armed group.

"In the struggle for freedom the government is not going to take any step backwards, but steps forward with courage and determination," Aznar said.

His appearance in the Basque city of San Sebastian came one day after Juan Maria Jauregui, a 49-year-old Socialist politician and a former representative of the Interior Ministry in the Basque region, was shot at close range by two presumed ETA members.

"They (the separatists) have never achieved their targets, and won't be able to do so," Spain's prime minister said. Members of the armed group and its sympathizers "have reasons to be worried, very worried, and they will see soon why," he said.

Aznar's government refuses to talk with ETA until the separatists lay down their arms.

Jauregui was the seventh victim blamed on the armed group this year and the second slain in similar circumstances in July, a month ETA has increased its offensive for Basque independence with at least 10 attacks. On July 15, an assassin shot and killed Jose Maria Martin Carpena in the southern city of Malaga.

Aznar joined senior Socialist politicians to give his condolences to the sobbing widow of Jauregui, Maria Isabel Lasa and to his 19-year-old daughter Maria in the Socialist party headquarters in San Sebastian.

ETA, whose name stands for Basque Homeland and Liberty, has waged a campaign since 1968 for independence of the three Basque regions, killing nearly 800 people, including police officers and politicians.

Jauregui also received an homage in his native town Legorreta. The ceremony was attended by various fellow party members, including newly elected party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. He was to be cremated later Sunday in San Sebastian.

Protests against ETA were held on Saturday in the Basque region and further demonstrations in the Basque city of San Sebastian and other Spanish cities are planned for Sunday.

Jauregui, who also had been a militant of the Spanish Communist Party and was detained during late Gen. Francisco Franco's 1939-75 dictatorship, served as the Interior Ministry's regional delegate from 1994-96, coinciding with the last term of Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.

During his two-year term, Jauregui backed the investigation of death squads sponsored by the prominent Socialist officials that targeted suspected Basque separatists in the early 80s.

Jauregui had been living in Chile for the past three years as a director of Aldeasa, a Spanish chain of airport duty-free shops and was on vacation at the time of the shooting.

Aznar's comments Sunday appeared to be an attempt to encourage all Basques to support the government's stance against ETA.

"In this battle, no matter how much cruelty they is involved, freedom will win" he said.

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