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Gov't Concerned About Idaho Bill [Basque/ETA]

By Associated Press

March 10, 2002, 12:32 AM EST

BOISE, Idaho -- The Bush administration is concerned about state legislation that supports self-determination for Spain's Basque minority without condemning an activist group that both countries consider a terrorist group, a state senator said Saturday.
The bill, which the state House passed unanimously, calls for peace talks among France, Spain and the Basque Autonomous Government and a vote on Basque independence. It also calls for an end to violence in the Basque region of Spain.

A state Senate panel delayed action on the bill until Monday after it received a call from a deputy to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, said Sheila Sorensen, chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee.

The deputy, Kurt Volker, expressed the administration's concern but did not ask the committee to hold the bill, she told The Associated Press on Saturday. The White House said late Saturday that it could not immediately comment and more information would be available Monday.

Javier Ruperez, Spain's ambassador to the United States, wrote a letter protesting the measure, which was co-authored by Republican Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa and Rep. David Bieter, a Boise Democrat.

The sponsors and Idaho Basques urged Sorensen to send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

"I don't think you should be dictated to by a foreign government," Cenarrusa said Friday.

Ruperez criticized the Legislature for not specifically condemning ETA, an activist group whose name is a Basque-language acronym for Basque Homeland and Freedom. Talk of stopping violence without mentioning ETA is like talking about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks without mentioning al-Qaida, Ruperez said.

The U.S. State Department includes ETA on its list of recognized terrorist groups.

Basques came to the American West in waves during the early part of the 20th century, working often as sheepherders and later as ranchers. They have become a powerful minority in the state, and the Boise area has the largest Basque population in North America with 15,000 people.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press



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