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MADRID (Reuters) - The political wing of ETA called on Saturday for talks between the armed Basque separatists and Spain's government based on the principles used in Northern Ireland's peace process.
The group nevertheless stopped short of condemning guerrilla violence, something which has proved the main hurdle to any new peace initiatives with the Spanish government and opposition parties. It is also the reason why Batasuna, who seeks independence for the northern Basque region, is outlawed.
"A process of negotiation between ETA and the Spanish state which deals with the demilitarisation of the country should be established (as well as) the release of all political prisoners," Batasuna said in a statement.
It said talks should be held in a climate in which violence was "totally absent" under the principles of the Northern Irish peace process led by U.S. Senator George Mitchell.
In that case, all parties agreed to use exclusively peaceful means to negotiate, aiming for the full disarmament of paramilitary groups.
Batasuna however did not specify whether it had the tacit or explicit support of ETA in this new initiative. Other political parties were unavailable to comment.
The last Basque peace process started in March 2006 but ended abruptly less than a year later with a bomb at Madrid airport which killed two people.
ETA has killed around 800 people over four decades, and it supporters often cite parallels with Northern Ireland, something its opponents reject as inappropriate because of the high degree of Basque regional autonomy.
On Friday, according to Basque newspaper Gara, Sinn Feins Gerry Adams called for the release from prison of Arnaldo Otegi, the former head of Batasuna, saying that he believed him to be "a man of peace."
(Reporting by Elisabeth OLeary; Editing by Jon Hemming)