Basque separatists responsible for the deaths of nearly 600 people since they took up arms nearly 20 years ago have offered to enter negotiations for a 60-day truce if the Spanish government agrees to resume peace talks, officials said Friday.
The government rejected the offer. "With attacks, there will be no contacts," Government spokesman Javier Solana said. "We must not be fooled by maneuvers which may be propaganda . . . .
"The reality is in the facts, he added, in reference to discovery of a bomb planted under a policeman's car in Bilbao on Friday hours after police seized two cars loaded with explosives for an imminent attack. The bomb was defused.
Negotiations in Algeria between ETA, the Basque-language initials for Basque Homeland and Liberty, and the Socialist government of Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez broke off following a Dec. 11 car bomb explosion in northeastern Spain that killed 11 people, including five children.
Unlike previous cease-fire offers, ETA made no demands for prior political concessions.
Authorities have reported that ETA has killed 580 people in its 20-year-old battle for independence for the 2.1 million Basques in northern Spain.