Bombs herald Spanish strike

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The Independent Online
HALF a dozen bomb blasts here and in the northern city of Pamplona heightened tension on the eve of a planned general strike that appears to have split the nation down the middle.

The only reported injury was that of a woman who was slightly hurt in a blast at a Madrid branch of the state-run Employment Office. A second bomb, preceded five minutes earlier by a warning from the small left-wing urban guerrilla group Grapo, caused considerable damage in a Madrid district branch of the Finance Ministry. All occupants had been evacuated.

Four other bombs went off in the small hours of yesterday outside bank branches in Pamplona, damaging their facades but injuring no one. Police said they appeared to be the work of Eta Basque separatists.

Police believed the Eta bombings were unrelated to today's strike. But the two blasts in Madrid yesterday appeared to be an attempt by Grapo to raise tension before the stoppage.

There will be no leading Spanish newspapers on the streets today as a result of the strike, which is in protest against the Socialist government's labour reforms, seen as eroding long-standing worker-friendly laws.

Journalists, printers and other newspaper workers, heeding the strike call by the two big union groupings, UGT and CO, stayed off work yesterday.

However, support for the strike, the first 24-hour general stoppage called since 1988, appeared likely to be mixed. A poll published in yesterday's El Mundo said 43.9 per cent would back the strike while 43.3 per cent would not.