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'I Explained the Lessons We Learned in Ireland'
AP Interview: Belfast priest who coaxed IRA toward peace advised ETA, too
The Associated Press (apwire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-03-23 18:17 (KST)   
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK Associated Press Writer

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ A Roman Catholic priest from Belfast who prodded the Irish Republican Army toward peace said Thursday he also has been advising leaders of ETA, the Basque paramilitary group, to commit to a permanent cease-fire and diplomatic compromise.

''I explained the lessons we learned in Ireland,'' the Rev. Alec Reid said in a telephone interview from Bilbao, Spain, in the heart of the Basque country, where he has spent weeks discussing the way forward with activists from ETA and its affiliated political party, Batasuna.

Reid, a confidante of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for the past two decades, helped oversee the IRA's disarmament last year. He said a Bilbao priest had invited him to help encourage similar peace moves from ETA.

''This is the end of the physical-force tradition in Basque politics,'' Reid said. ''It's what happened last year with the IRA. It's the beginning of a whole new era.''

He said his message to ETA members and supporters was that ''the only way you can solve a conflict like the Irish one or Basque one is through negotiations. There are no military solutions.''

''The first thing you have to do is take the conflict away from the streets _ you can't solve it while it's on the streets. Then you have to bring it to the conference table, the table for dialogue. And there, in a dialogue between all the political parties that represent the people, you will certainly resolve the conflict,'' he said.

When asked if he thought ETA would split into factions because of the cease-fire, Reid said, ''No. My information is that ETA has been completely united heading into this.''
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter The Associated Press

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