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Spanish police defuse bomb

MADRID, Spain -- Police have defused a bomb left in a cemetery where relatives had just met to pay homage to a politician killed by the Basque separatist group ETA.

A police spokesman in Spain's Basque region said callers claiming to represent ETA warned police and a radio station of the explosives, planted in a flower pot at a cemetery in the Basque town of Zarauz on Tuesday.

Local Basque leaders of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's ruling party and relatives of the late Zarauz town councillor Jose Ignacio Iruretagoyana had just gathered in the cemetery on the third anniversary of his assassination by ETA.

graphic Basque conflict: Violence in Spain

  • Overview
  • Living in fear
  • Standing vigil
  • ETA background
  • Q&A on ETA
  • ETA timeline
  • Map: Violence
  • Video archive
  • Recent stories

"It was truly lucky, a miracle, that a terrible attack has been prevented," Aznar told Antena 3 television.

ETA, whose initials stand for Basque Homeland and Freedom, has been blamed for the deaths of some 800 people in its 30-year-old war to create an independent state out of Basque areas of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Meanwhile, Spanish police have found a small, windowless room where they believe ETA imprisoned hostages.

National Police Chief Juan Cotino said the cell had probably been used to hide Cosme Delclaux, a 34-year-old lawyer and son of a wealthy Basque businessman, who was held for 232 days until July 1997, as well as businessman Jose Maria Aldaya who was held for almost a year in 1995.

The concealed room was found in a building in the Basque town of Irun, near the French border.

The room is divided into three sections, the biggest 1.8m (almost six feet) long by one metre (about three feet) wide, Cotino said.

The police raid was ordered after two suspected ETA members expelled from Mexico gave the location of the cell.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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