Catholic priest may broker spanish ceasefire
An Irish Roman Catholic priest has been called on by Basque nationalists to negotiate a ceasefire between the Spanish government and the separatist terrorist group Eta.
Fr Alec Reid who was at the heart of negotiations on the IRA's ceasefire that led to the Good Friday Agreement, flew to Spain after local elections there last weekend.
If successful, he is expected to mediate between the Basques and the Madrid government in an attempt to bring about an Eta ceasefire.
The Spanish conservative newspaper ABC said he was trying to forge a consensus among Eta, its banned political wing, Batasuna, and the mainstream Basque Nationalist Party, which governs the region.
Fr Reid is reported to believe that Eta could call a halt to terror attacks if the authorities agree to go further towards independence.
The current plan is to hold a referendum on establishing a Basque "free state associated with Spain".
But the presence of a "meddling priest" has irritated many Spanish politicians, who see no similarities between the Basque region and Northern Ireland.
His sympathies for the Basque nationalist movement are also well known. He has written a treatise on the Basque struggle that was greeted enthusiastically by nationalist politicians.
Recent reports in the Spanish press have speculated that Eta is on the point of declaring a ceasefire, prompted by a crisis among radical Basque nationalists.
After numerous arrests of terrorists over the past two years and the possible defection of two senior members, the group is said to be on the ropes.
Last Sunday's elections were the first in which Batasuna was not permitted to stand. They now have no official representation or funding.