Madrid: A claim that the Basque separatist group ETA is to make a symbolic handover of arms has added fuel to an already heated debate in Spain over whether the Government should be negotiating a peace deal. Intereconomia radio station said the group was preparing to hand over some 100 of the 350 pistols it stole from a French arms dealership last October. ``It would be a public relations exercise for the group, which would in no way diminish its operational capacity,'' the station said in a press release. Spain's Interior Ministry refused to comment on the report. It came as the poll ratings of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero suffered in the wake of a decision to allow ETA hunger striker Inaki de Juana Chaos to serve out a prison sentence under house arrest. Polls show fewer than a third of Spaniards approve of the measure, while Opposition politicians accuse Mr Zapatero of bending to ETA's will. Hundreds of thousands of people protested in Madrid at the weekend against the decision.
Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006