Catalan leader must drop independence by Thursday - Spain Deputy PM

Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont attends a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona

The Catalan leader has called for talks with the Spanish prime minister in a letter in which he failed to clarify whether he will declare the region's independence. That plunged the country into its worst political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981.

Mariano Rajoy had given Carles Puigdemont until 10am this morning to clarify his position regarding independence and until Thursday to change his mind if he insists on a split - adding Madrid would suspend the region's autonomy if he chooses independence.

In his letter to Rajoy, published by local Catalan media, Puigdemont does not answer the question directly, and instead states that they should meet as soon as possible to start a dialogue in the next two months.

Last week, following an October 1 referendum that went for Catalonia to break away from Spain, Puigdemont declared independence for the region of 7.5 million people.

Rajoy had previously warned Puigdemont that any ambiguous response would be taken as a confirmation that a declaration of independence had been made, however he was yet to respond to Monday΄s letter.

"The question was clear but the answer is not", Catala told journalists.

The Spanish government says growing uncertainty over Catalonia, which is deeply indebted to Madrid and which can not borrow internationally, imperils Spain's recovery from the financial crisis.

"Our offer for dialogue is sincere and honest. During the next two months, our main objective is to have this dialogue and that all worldwide, Spanish and Catalan institutions and personalities that have expressed the willingness to open a way for dialogue can explore it", Mr Puigdemont said in the letter.

The Spanish government had given Puigdemont until 0800 GMT on Monday to clear up his stance on secession, with anything less than a full climb-down likely to prompt moves by Madrid to impose direct control over the semi-autonomous region. "With good will, recognising the problem and facing it head on, I am sure we can find the path to a solution".

The central government can then sack the local administration and install a new governing team, take control of the police and finances, and call for a snap election. Opinion on the issue is reportedly almost evenly split and turnout for the referendum was just 43 percent.



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