Spain says it's still blaming Eta

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The Independent Online

Spain still believes Basque separatists are behind the Madrid terrorist attacks, Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said today.

But other lines of investigation remain open after police found a van with an Arabic-language tape and detonators in the town where three of the four bombed trains originated. The attacks killed 192 people and wounded more than 1,400.

"All the objective elements that we have point to Eta," Palacio said.

"The explosives used, the way in which they (the attackers) worked point to Eta," she said, noting that Eta had tried a similar attack on Christmas Eve that targeted a Madrid train station "with the same system of putting explosives in backpacks."

However, she said authorities had not ruled out other possibilities. The discovery of the stolen van with Arabic-language tapes, she said, was "an element that we have to study."

The Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said: "No line of investigation is going to be ruled out."

He revealed that foreigners killed in the blasts included three Peruvians, two Hondurans, two Poles, and one each from France, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Colombia, Morocco and Guinea-Bissau.

The Deputy Justice Minister Rafael Alcala said 84 bodies had yet to be identified. Out of the 1,400 who were injured, 367 people are still in hospital and 45 of those are in a critical condition. Among the casualties is a British woman who is thought to be a resident in Spain and is now recovering in hospital.

Meanwhile it was announced that the Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and the French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin were travelling to Spain to take part in this evening's anti-terrorism demonstration in Madrid.

The demonstration is expected to draw huge crowds following yesterday's terrorist attack in Madrid that killed at least 198 people.

Berlusconi is a close ally of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, with both men supporting the US-led war in Iraq.

Raffarin came from a meeting of top advisers called by the French President Jacques Chirac after the country's security alert level was raised in response to the Madrid bombings.

The UK was being represented by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Tony Blair has commitments today and tomorrow around Labour's spring conference in Manchester.

Mr Blair said: "In Spain tonight millions of people will take to the streets and we will be with them in spirit and solidarity. This is a struggle which doesn't concern Spain alone but all of the free world."

In London, the country's biggest rail workers union today called for increased security on the UK's rail network in the wake of the Madrid bombings.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said train companies should conduct an urgent review of security arrangements at stations and on trains. Its general secretary Bob Crow said: "Yesterday's horrific events in Spain have underlined the need for increased security here and we are calling on the train operating companies in Britain to improve security measures on our railway network.

"We are concerned that the train operating companies should undertake an urgent review of existing security measures and should ensure that they employ directly recruited and vetted staff."