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Catalonia calls off independence referendum from Spain, will hold 'consultation'

Catalonia has dropped plans to hold a referendum on independence from Spain next month but will instead hold a "consultation of citizens", the region's head said on Tuesday.

The Spanish government last month asked the constitutional court to declare the referendum planned for Nov. 9 illegal on the grounds that it breached the constitution. The court suspended the vote until it ruled on the case, which could take years.

Catalan regional president Artur Mas said the referendum would not now go ahead but a "consultation of citizens" will take place on that day. The new vote would be within the law, he said, without offering further details. The results will be known on Nov. 10.

"There will be ballots and ballot boxes. We can't apply the decree (to hold a referendum) but it will be possible to vote," Mas told a news conference in Barcelona.

Catalonia is a wealthy region in Spain's northeast with its own language and culture. Its long-standing independence movement has grown over the last decade, fueled by Spain's economic crisis and a refusal by Madrid to meet regional demands for more autonomy, especially on taxes.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy welcomed the announcement and called for dialogue with Catalan authorities.

"The fact that the referendum is not taking place is excellent news," he said at an event in Madrid.

"We need to go over certain things, we need to dialogue, we need to talk. A lot of us want to live together because we've done many things together."

[Source: Reuters, Madrid, 14Oct14]

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