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Catalonia leader calls referendum on independence from Spain

The president of Spain's north-eastern region of Catalonia has called an independence referendum in the latest secession push in Europe, and one of the most serious challenges to the state government in recent years.

The conservative Madrid -administration insists the referendum, planned for 9 November, is illegal and will not take place.

The Catalan leader, Artur Mas, called the referendum on Saturday. An emergency cabinet meeting is to be held on Saturday afternoon to address the issue.

It plans to challenge a recently-passed Catalan law permitting the referendum before the constitutional court, which it hopes will suspend the motion and halt the vote.

The announcement comes a week after Scotland voted against breaking away from the UK.

A long-standing pro-independence movement in Catalonia has gathered momentum during recent years of economic hardship.

Spain's constitution doesn't allow referendums on sovereignty that don't include all Spaniards, and experts say the constitutional court would rule the vote illegal.

Mas has said he will not do anything illegal but insists the vote will be held. He has suggested that if a referendum can't be held he may call early elections, which could be turned into a yes or no vote on independence. "We are open to negotiating the conditions of the referendum until the last moment," he said.

Pro-independence sentiment in the economically strong region has surged in recent years, fuelled by a sense that the region deserves better fiscal and political treatment from Madrid.

While Mas called the referendum, hundreds of pro-independence supporters gathered in the square in front of the Catalan government building in the centre of Barcelona, with many wearing or waving pro-independence flags and chanting "independence."

Polls indicate most Catalans favor holding the referendum but are roughly evenly split on independence.

[Source: The Guardian, London, 27Sep14]

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small logoThis document has been published on 29Sep14 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.