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Basque peace moves welcome Just what the world needs, another terror organization now choosing democracy

The permanent cease-fire now agreed to by the militant Basque separatist group ETA could mark the beginning of the end for a four-decade conflict that has drawn relatively little attention here, despite claiming 817 lives. But it does mark a shift from terrorism to diplomacy and politics by a radical group, and it's worth celebrating not only within Spain, but by anyone hoping for better conflict resolutions than violence.

For Spain, it means that the ETA bought in at last to the democracy established there 29 years ago and sees the political process as a more productive way to the ultimate goal of Basque regional independence than more violence. The permanent cease-fire, long sought by the Spanish government, opens the door to negotiations, which Spain offered as an inducement.

The Spanish government should remain wary, because ETA bombings have continued even though arrests seem to have seriously weakened its leadership in recent years. Recent bombings, though, have been small in scale and are described by the government as more intended to coerce businesses to give money to the group than to cause injury. The Islamist train bombings in Madrid in 2004 also may have convinced the ETA that more bloodshed would hurt it long term.

But any turn from terrorism to talks should be welcomed. That process has eased, if not ended, violence in Northern Ireland, and the pattern is well worth encouraging. Given the ETA's goal of independence, these negotiations will be difficult, but at least the issues can be explored in words rather than bathed in blood.

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