'Truly sorry' Eta apologises for decades of violence

Basque group Eta apologises to victims ahead of dissolution

"As a result of errors or wrong decisions, ETA has caused victims who did not have a direct participation in the conflict", the ETA said in a statement published by Basque newspaper Gara on Friday. "We ask forgiveness to those people and their families", it said.

A Spanish government statement said the apology was long overdue and hailed it as further proof that "Eta has been defeated with the weapons of democracy and the strength of the rule of law".

The group, which waged a bloody campaign for independence for seven regions in northern Spain and south-west France, is expected to announce its dissolution early next month.

ETA is committed "to finally overcome the consequences of the conflict and to not fall into its repetition, " the statement said. In total some 850 people were killed in the conflict.

ETB said that an event to mark the end of ETA - a Basque-language acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, meaning Basque Homeland and Freedom - will be held in southern France before the final announcement by the group. "We truly apologise", it added, admitting its "direct responsibility" in the "disproportionate suffering" in the Basque country.

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"We are aware that during this long period of armed struggle we have created a lot of pain, including many damages for which there is no solution".

The group has been weakened by attrition and a string of high-profile arrests in the late 1990s and 2000s.

Spain's 2.2-million-strong Basque region is now gearing up for the dissolution of the group created in 1959 at the height of Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

"I can not say what words they will use but no one will be left in any doubt", he said, adding that the announcement would be made across the border, in the French Basque region.

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