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Main Corsican separatist group says will lay down arms

Corsica's main militant group FLNC, which has staged attacks since the 1970s in its quest for the island's separation from France, in a surprise move announced it would lay down arms.

AJACCIO, France: Corsica's main militant group FLNC, which has staged attacks since the 1970s in its quest for the island's separation from France, in a surprise move on Wednesday announced it would lay down arms.

The National Liberation Front of Corsica said in a statement that it has "unilaterally decided to begin a process of demilitarisation... without any preconditions".

It said that its members would no longer claim responsibility "for any military action on Corsican and French territory".

The statement also called on politicians to "trace the outlines of a political solution" and "negotiate a new status with the French state and resolve the question of prisoners."

The FLNC, which was set up in 1976, and various other factions intent on self-rule have staged hundreds of attacks in Corsica. They have also been blamed for armed robberies and extortion through so-called revolutionary taxes.

But the group suffered from internal feuds in the 1990s - although in that decade it staged the assassination of Claude Erignac, the prefect of Corsica and the island's top official.

The French Mediterranean island of 310,000 people is popular with tourists for its spectacular beauty, but it has also been hit by a serious crime wave.

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