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Catalan leader holds off on declaring immediate independence.

Summary: Catalonia's leader Tuesday said he had a mandate to declare independence from Spain but stopped short of actually doing so, suspending secession for "a few weeks" to pursue negotiations with the Spanish government.

BARCELONA: Catalonia's leader Tuesday said he had a mandate to declare independence from Spain but stopped short of actually doing so, suspending secession for "a few weeks" to pursue negotiations with the Spanish government.

"I assume the mandate that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic ... I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks to reach an agreed solution," Catalan told the regional Parliament in Barcelona.

In his highly anticipated speech to the regional Parliament, the Catalan president said the landslide victory in the referendum gave his government the grounds to implement its long-held desire to break century-old ties with Spain.

But he proposed that the regional Parliament "suspend the effects of the independence declaration to commence a dialogue, not only for reducing tension but for reaching an accord on a solution to go forward with the demands of the Catalan people."

That would help reduce political tensions and reach "an accord on a solution to go forward with the demands of the Catalan people," Puigdemont said.

Though Puigdemont stopped short of seeking the explicit support of the chamber for the declaration of independence in a vote, a move that would have closed the door to any negotiated solution, the declaration plunges Spain into the unknown.

A far-left Catalan party that is a key ally to Puigdemont's regional government Tuesday lamented a "missed" opportunity to declare outright independence.

"We believed that today was the day to solemnly declare a Catalan republic, and we probably missed an opportunity," Anna Gabriel, a lawmaker for the CUP party, told regional parliament. The Spanish government has said any unilateral declaration of independence would be illegal and has promised action "to restore law and democracy" if the Parliament of the autonomous and affluent northeastern region presses ahead.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy could take the unprecedented step of dissolving the Catalan Parliament and triggering new regional elections, the so-called "nuclear option."

The Madrid government could also ask the courts to strike down a declaration of independence as unconstitutional.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Oct 11, 2017
Words:392
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