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Saturday December 16th, 2017 7:38PM

Catalan leader urged to definitively declare independence

By The Associated Press
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Catalonia's president faced mounting pressure Friday from within the separatist movement to declare independence from Spain once and for all.

Two key allies of Catalan president Carles Puigdemont called on him not to waste any more time, and to ignore the Spanish government's threats to take over some or total control of Catalonia's regional government.

On Tuesday, Puigdemont told the regional parliament in a speech that Catalonia was proceeding with a declaration of independence from a mandate provided by an Oct. 1 referendum.

But he immediately suspended its implementation for a few weeks to allow for the possibility of negotiations with Spain. The move disappointed some of the hard-liners in the secessionist camp.

Spain considers the referendum to be illegal and unconstitutional, and says its results are invalid. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has rejected any possibility of dialogue unless Puigdemont backtracks, returns "to legality" and takes independence off the table. Rajoy has also said that Spain doesn't need international mediators to get involved.

Rajoy's government gave Puigdemont a Monday deadline to clarify whether he really declared independence. If Puigdemont says he did, then he will have three more days to cancel any secession plans. If he refuses to, or doesn't answer, Rajoy has threatened to trigger for the first time a constitutional article that could give central authorities power to intervene directly in Catalonia.

The far-left separatist Catalan party CUP said in a letter dated Friday that Puigdemont should ignore the Spanish government's warning, lift the suspension and definitively proclaim independence.

The Assemblea Nacional Catalana, or ANC, a civil society group that organized massive protests in support of secession, also issued a brief statement with a similar message.

"It doesn't make sense to keep the suspension of the independence declaration" given Madrid's rejection of any dialogue, ANC said in the statement.

Some politicians of the two parties in the ruling coalition have also expressed similar views on social media, with only a few of them calling for calm. The Catalan government hasn't given any signal of what it intends to do.

Years of growing separatist sentiment erupted on Oct. 1 when Catalan leaders held the banned referendum despite court rulings and a fierce opposition from Spain.

About 2.3 million Catalans — or 43 percent of the region's electorate — voted amid police violence to halt the referendum. Catalonia said 90 percent favored secession and it declared the results valid. Opponents boycotted the vote.

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