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Catalans given deadline to declare independence

Defiant: Mariano Rajoy PIC: GETTY

SPAIN’S prime minister Mariano Rajoy has given the leader of Catalonia until Monday to confirm if he has declared independence.

Mr Rajoy said Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s response would be crucial in deciding ‘events over the coming days’. This is seen as a threat that the Madrid government could limit or rescind autonomy in the north-east region.

The central government ‘wants to offer certainty to citizens’ and it was ‘necessary to return tranquillity and calm’, he added.

Breakaway: Catalans gather in Barcelona PIC: REX

Mr Rajoy also called the referendum, which had been ruled illegal, part of a strategy ‘to impose independence that few want and is good for nobody’, saying it had led to ‘one of the most difficult times in our recent history’.

He did not refer to the violence police used on the day but added ‘nobody can be proud of the image’ Spain projected, blaming the separatist leaders. ‘There is no possible mediation between democratic law and disobedience and unlawfulness,’ he said.

The ballot on October 1 saw 90 per cent of the 2.3million Catalans — about 43 per cent of the electorate in the region — back independence.

On Tuesday, Mr Puigdemont said the result gave the region the grounds to break away from Spain, but proposed suspending the declaration for further talks and to reduce tensions.