Four Eta suspects arrested in France

The suspected leader of the Basque separatist group Eta's armed cells and three other alleged members of the organisation were arrested in France, Spanish and French officials said yesterday.

The arrests came in a joint raid on Thursday night by French and Spanish police in Willencourt in northern France's Pas-de-Calais region, officials said. Spain-based Eta members often hide out in France, which co-operates closely with Madrid in hunting suspects.

Eta declared a ceasefire in September and in January called it permanent, raising hopes for an end to Europe's last armed political militancy. But the Spanish government is insisting Eta dissolve outright and is ruling out talks. It says it will not let up against Eta, and continues to make arrests.

One of the four arrested is Alejandro Zobaran Arriola, 29, who is described as the head of Eta's "military apparatus". Another is the alleged logistics chief, Mikel Oroz Torrea, 31.