The United States will send CIA and FBI agents to Spain to provide technical support to help Madrid battle the armed Basque separatist group ETA, Spanish newspapers reported yesterday. At the same time the CIA and FBI will study Spanish strategies and methods in the fight against terrorism, leading dailies El Pais and El Mundo said. Spain has dealt with ETA violence for 33 years and in recent months has arrested 18 suspected Islamic militants believed to have ties to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network - blamed for the September 11 attacks on the United States. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was promised the intelligence cooperation following a meeting in Washington on Thursday with Tom Ridge, the U.S. director of homeland security who was named to the newly created post after the attacks. The U.S. support is also a political victory for Aznar, who has sought to equate ETA with groups like Al Qaeda. U.S. security forces including FBI and CIA agents will travel to Spain early next year followed by Ridge himself in the spring, the newspapers said. A spokesman for Spain's Foreign Ministry would not comment. ETA, which stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom, has been blamed for more than 800 deaths in its campaign to carve out an independent homeland in the Basque-speaking areas of northern Spain and southwestern France. “ETA must be pursued and Al Qaeda must be pursued because they are terrorist organisations, because they kill,” Aznar said in Washington. Even before September 11, ETA and Al Qaeda were both listed by the U.S. State Department as among the nearly 30 Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) in the world.

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