WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has added the Spanish Basque nationalist party Batasuna and its predecessors to a list of "terrorist" groups subject to financial sanctions, the State Department says.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in an order signed on April 30, decreed that Batasuna, Euskal Herritarrok and Herri Batasuna were fronts for the separatist guerrilla group ETA, which is on the State Department's separate list of "foreign terrorist organisations", it said.
Euskal Herritarrok and Herri Batasuna were predecessors of Batasuna, which has been changing its name to circumvent legal restrictions on its activities. Basque separatists are now operating politically on the newly created platform AuB.
Powell signed the order one day before visiting Madrid last week. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who arrives in Washington later on Wednesday for talks with President George W. Bush, has long urged action against the groups.
Aznar was an important ally of the United States in its abortive attempt to win explicit U.N. Security Council approval of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March.
The order signed by Powell applied specifically to Executive Order 13224, issued by Bush after the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. It prohibits financial transactions with organisations on the list.
But members of Batasuna, unless they happen to be known ETA members, would not be subject to the additional visa ban which comes with designation as a "foreign terrorist organisation."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Wednesday, "This designation is based on substantial and credible information from a variety of sources that these entities were formed at ETA's direction and functioned as part of ETA."
The three names are not yet on the list of "foreign terrorist organisations" because of a time lag between the two designation processes, he said.
He said no decision had been made on the new entity AuB.
ETA, the acronym in Basque for Basque Fatherland and Liberty, has been on the list of "foreign terrorist organisations" since 1997 and was added to the separate Executive Order 13224 list on October 31, 2001