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Catalonia leader Puigdemont fails to clarify independence bid


Catalonia leader Puigdemont fails to clarify independence bid

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Media captionEurope correspondent Gavin Lee looks to the past for the origins of the Catalan crisis

The president of the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia has failed to clarify whether he has declared independence, in a letter to Madrid.

Spain had issued a Monday deadline for Carles Puigdemont to clarify his intent – or face direct rule.

Instead, the Catalan leader called for negotiation over the next two months.

Mr Puigdemont declared independence last week after a controversial referendum – but immediately suspended the declaration to allow for talks.

Spain's Justice Minister Rafael Catalá said on Monday that Mr Puigdemont's response to the Madrid deadline was "not valid", Spanish news agency Efe reports.

Mr Catalá said the letter failed to clarify Catalonia's position or explain what measures Mr Puigdemont's regional government was planning in order to fulfil Madrid's demands.

It is now thought that the Spanish government will give Mr Puigdemont until Thursday to revoke any independence declaration, before taking steps to enact direct rule.

The region voted for independence in a controversial 1 October poll declared illegal by Spain's Constitutional Court. Catalan authorities say just under 90% of voters backed independence – but turnout was only 43%.

Polling day was marred by scenes of violence as Spain's police confiscated ballot boxes and attempted to prevent members of the public entering polling stations.

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In a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday, Mr Puigdemont said his "suspension of the political mandate given by the polls on 1 October demonstrates our firm will to find a solution and not confrontation."

"For the next two months, our main objective is to bring you to dialogue," he said, asking for a meeting as soon as possible.

"Let's not let the situation deteriorate further. With good will, recognising the problem and facing it head on, I am sure we can find the path to a solution."

Article 155 of the country's constitution allows the government to impose direct rule in a crisis – but it has never been invoked in democratic Spain.

Some 4,000 national police who were dispatched to Catalonia during the crisis have remained there since polling day.

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