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Catalan leader given five days to clarify independence stance

12 October 2017

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to do everything in his power to prevent Catalan secession following a banned referendum in the region, which remains deeply divided over independence.

On Tuesday, as Catalonia's regional legislature met to discuss whether to declare independence, national police units, deployed initially in the region to try to halt the recent October 1 independence referendum, reinforced their positions at transport hubs, including the worldwide airport and mainline railway stations. Rajoy said the ball was now firmly back in Puigdemont's court.

The Spanish leader, who heads a center-right national government, asked Catalan secessionists for clarification on their announcement Tuesday that they had earned the right to declare a breakaway state, but were suspending implementing independence, pending negotiations with Madrid.

Invoking Article 155 to ease Spain's worst political crisis in four decades would make prospects of a negotiated solution even more remote.

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Rajoy said "It is duty of Catalan leaders to ensure constitutional normality", and rejected any mediation effort.

"There is no mediation possible between democratic law and disobedience, illegality", he told parliament.

France, which borders Catalonia, said today that it would not recognise a unilateral independence declaration.

Pedro Sanchez, leader of opposition Socialist Party, said party and government agreed to address possibilities of constitutional reform in order to end crisis.

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The conflict over a self-determination vote has been dragging on for six years but Catalan separatists staged an independence referendum on October 1 despite Spain's insistence it was illegal.

The influential business community has indicated its unhappiness with the prospect of independence under current circumstances, Catalonia's two major banks, CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, energy giant Gas Natural and the company that provides Barcelona's water have all decided in recent days to move their headquarters to other parts of Spain because of a desire to stay within the EU.

European Commission President Donald Tusk called on Puigdemont not to divide Spain, but also urged restraint on Madrid.

"Consequently, Morocco does not recognise this unilateral process which runs against the global legality", it added.

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Crowds of thousands gathered outside the parliament building in Barcelona on Tuesday ahead of Puigdemont's speech, waving Catalan flags and banners and screaming "democracy" in the hope of witnessing history in the making.

Catalan leader given five days to clarify independence stance