MADRID: Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy insisted Thursday on the "definitive disbandment" of the Basque separatist group ETA, after one of its former leaders voiced regret for victims of its attacks.
"The most important thing is that ETA take a definitive decision, that they agree on it and announce it to the public, for its definitive disbandment as a terrorist organisation," Rajoy told parliament.
ETA is blamed for 829 killings in a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent Basque homeland in parts of northern Spain and southern France.
It announced a "definitive end" to its armed activity in October 2011 but has not formally disarmed or disbanded as the Spanish and French governments demand.
On Monday ETA's former military leader Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina told a court in Paris, where he is on trial for a kidnapping, that he regretted harm caused by ETA to people who had "no responsibility in the conflict".
Rajoy's government rejected his statement as "hypocritical".
The junior minister for security Francisco Martinez said it was calculated to coincide with Saturday's congress of the Basque pro-independence party Sortu.
Rajoy was speaking during a state-of-the-nation debate, in response to questions by Aitor Esteban, a member of parliament for the conservative Basque Nationalist Party which has led the regional government there since winning elections in October.
"Now that the violence which caused so much harm has ended, it is necessary to prepare for definitive pacification, but above all reconciliation," Esteban said.
Classed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States, ETA carried out its last attack in Spain in 2009.
Some 700 ETA members are in jail and many of its senior leaders have been arrested, most of them in Spain and France.
The Spanish interior ministry said two more wanted ETA members were arrested on Thursday in Moulins, central France.