Spain asks US for help on extraditions from Cuba

AP News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2015 9:23 AM

MADRID (AP) — Spain said Monday it has asked the United States to use its talks on taking Cuba off the blacklist of nations sponsoring terrorism to help obtain the extradition of two members of the armed Basque group ETA from the communist country.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said the government has been in talks with the U.S. in the hope of getting Cuba to extradite Jose Angel Urtiaga and Jose Ignacio Etxarte to Spain.

They have been wanted since 2010 in a probe into alleged links between Venezuela, ETA and the Colombian rebel group, the FARC.

Cuba's 33-year status on the terrorism list stems from its support decades ago for ETA and the FARC.

The list is a major hurdle in U.S.-Cuban negotiations to end a half-century diplomatic freeze.

Margallo said the extraditions have since been made more difficult by former Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who last week called on the U.S to take Cuba off the list immediately and without conditions.

Zapatero's comments in Havana after meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro during a private visit greatly angered the conservative Madrid government

Margallo said Zapatero had not informed the government of the meeting with Castro and should have contacted the ministry before making such statements.

Urtiaga and Etxarte are believed to have been in Cuba since the mid-1980s. Spain's National Court said the two sought permission from ETA to carry out grenade- and mortar-launching tests in Venezuela in cooperation with the FARC.

ETA killed some 830 people in a four-decade-long campaign for a Basque homeland. It declared a permanent cease-fire in 2011 but has yet to disband.