THE BASQUE SEPARATIST group ETA apologised Friday for the 'pain' and 'harm' it caused during the its decades-long campaign of violence, and appealed to the victims for forgiveness.

''We have caused a lot of pain, and irreparable harm. We want to show respect to the dead, to the wounded and to the victims of actions of ETA........We sincerely regret it,'' it said in a statement released in the Basque newspaper Gara.

The statement came just days before the ETA is expected to announce its dissolution.

''We know that, forced by the necessities of all types of armed struggle, our actions have harmed citizens who were not responsible. We have also caused serious wrongs which are irreparable. We ask forgiveness to those people and their families,'' it said.

The government in Madrid said the apology was the result of ''the strength of the rule of law that has defeated ETA with the weapons of democracy.''

''The ETA should have asked for forgiveness a long time ago,'' it said in a statement.

ETA waged a nearly four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to establish an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.

At least 829 people were killed before the group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011.

Last year it went a step further and began laying down its arms.

In its statement to Gara , its traditional mouthpiece, ETA said it was not alone in being responsible for the violence in the Basque Country.

''Suffering existed before the birth of ETA and continued after it ceased its armed struggle.'' it said.

Without specifically mentioning the Madrid government, it called for ''all to recognise their responsibilities and wrong caused'' and open the way for reconciliation [Agencies]


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