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Spanish PM Demands Catalans Clarify Independence Plans

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Defiant Mariano Rajoy tells Spanish lawmakers dialogue not possible with those acting 'outside the law'.

A diplomatic game of chicken between Madrid and Barcelona continued on Wednesday as Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy demanded Catalan leaders clarify if they had declared independence or not.

Speaking in a televised address after an emergency Cabinet meeting in Madrid, the Popular Party leader said the Catalan administration of President Carles Puigdemont needed to act to "avoid confusion" after a controversial independence vote.

He said the Spanish and Catalan people needed "certitude" and said it was "necessary to have serenity back, as soon as possible".

Speaking later before Spanish lawmakers in parliament, a defiant Rajoy claimed that although he was a "firm supporter" of dialogue it was not possible with those who, he said, were acting outside the law.

"We cannot recognize a law which does not exist," he added, referring to the Catalan parliament's suspended declaration of independence.

"All attempts to divide our territories are against the requirements of the UN Standing Charter. The right to decide your status is illegal under international law," he added.

He also said unilateral independence "should not be imposed, to do so is anti-democratic".

Mariano's remarks followed a Tuesday night speech by Puigdemont in which he said that while he supported declaring independence, it should be held off “for a few weeks” to allow for dialogue and mediation.

An overwhelming majority of voters in the wealthy northeastern region opted for independence from Spain in an Oct. 1 referendum. However, the turnout was only around 43 percent and the vote had been declared illegal by Spain's courts.

Scenes of Spanish police breaking up attempted voting also increased tensions in the region.

Several European countries have indicated they would not recognize any unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia.

A formal declaration could leave the Catalan authorities open to prosecution. Spain's courts could also empower the government to enact Article 155 of the constitution, allowing Madrid to suspend Catalan autonomy. 

EU reiterates its call on Catalan referendum

The European Commission, meanwhile, voiced again its call for full respect for Spain's constitutional order.

Speaking at a news briefing in Brussels, Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, said they were trusting Rajoy and all those who are working on a solution within the framework of the constitution.

Elsewhere, Greek police on Wednesday arrested 18 people from an anarchist group staging a pro-Catalan independence protest at the Spanish embassy in Athens.

According to local media, the protesters occupied the embassy building and shouted anti-Spanish government slogans, while the group -- known as Rouvikonas -- declared support for Catalan independence.


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