Basque separatist group ETA 'dismantles logistical structures'

MADRID (AFP) - Basque separatist group ETA says it has dismantled the "logistical and operational structures" used in its armed campaign as a further step towards full disarmament, a newspaper close to the movement reported on Saturday.

Basque newspaper Gara quoted a declaration sent to it by ETA saying the group had completed "dismantlement of the logistical and operational structures linked to the waging of the armed struggle".

It said the move aimed to bring about "a transition from armed confrontation to democratic confrontation".

ETA is blamed for the killing of 829 people in a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent homeland in parts of northern Spain and southern France.

In October 2011 it declared a "definitive end" to armed activity and in February this year international monitors released a video of weapons which it said ETA was putting out of use.

But the group has not formally disbanded as the Spanish and French governments demand. They shrugged off the February disarmament gesture and insisted the group disband without conditions.

Spain's government has notably refused to budge on one of ETA's most sensitive demands: the return of imprisoned ETA members to the Basque country.

Gara added on Saturday, without quoting directly from ETA's declaration, that "a technical logistical structure is being created that aims to carry through to completion the sealing of the arms depots" held by the group.

Gara - regularly used as a mouthpiece for the outlawed group - said it would publish the declaration in full on Sunday.

Basque nationalist parties have gained strength in the region in recent years, raising the prospect of political progress on the independence issue.

In its new declaration, ETA says it wants to strengthen its political structures and dialogue "to move the peace process forward", according to Gara.