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Spain moves closer to Batasuna ban

MADRID, Spain -- The Spanish parliament will convene next month as part of the government's plan to ban a Basque separatist party.

Parliament will meet on August 19 to convene sessions for August 26 and August 30 in its effort to ban Batasuna, Interior Minister Angel Acebes was reported by Reuters as saying on Saturday.

Batasuna, which denies having links to the armed separatist group ETA, nevertheless, shares its aims.

The government passed a controversial bill in June, with Batasuna in mind, outlawing political parties that support, justify or excuse terrorism on the grounds that they are responsible as well.

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But Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's government needs parliamentary support before it can ask the courts for a ban on Batasuna.

Acebes said the "Cabinet would agree to present a suit in rigorous legal terms for the dissolution of a political party which forms part of the terrorist framework."

A spokesman for the leading socialist opposition party said: "(There are) enough legal arguments to maintain that Batasuna and ETA are the same thing, although that is a decision to be made by the judges."

Spanish legal experts are split on whether Batasuna, fined 24 million euros ($23.32 million) by High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon last month for street violence by pro-ETA youths, could be banned for not condemning an attack.

Batasuna, which won 10 percent of the vote in Basque elections last year, has also failed to condemn a car bomb attack in Santa Pola last Sunday which killed a six-year-old girl and a man.

Batasuna's leader Arnaldo Otegi said Aznar was trying to turn the clock back to the days of military dictatorship under Miguel Primo de Rivera.

A pro-Batasuna demonstration is due to be held in the Basque city of San Sebastian on Sunday.

ETA has killed more than 800 people since 1968 in its campaign for an independent homeland.




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