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Catalonia's Carles Puigdemont suspends independence

Puigdemont says region 'should become independent' but will first negotiate with central government in Madrid.

Catalonia's leader

Catalonia's leader has asked parliament to suspend its mandate for a declaration of independence as he seeks dialogue with Spain. 

"Based on the results of October 1st , Catalonia has earned the right to be an independent country and has earned the right to be listened to and respected," Carles Puigdemont told the regional parliament on Tuesday.  

"The ballot boxes are telling us the people are in favour of independence and that is the path we follow," he said.  

"By being the president I assume my responsibility to declare that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic."

He then asked parliament to suspend its mandate to declare independence based on this month's referendum.

On Sunday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told Spanish newspaper, El Pais, that "Spain is not going to divide and national unity will be maintained. To do so, we will use all of the instruments that the legislation gives us. It falls to the government to take the decision and to do so at the right time".  

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Spanish leaders were considering "all possible options" and described the Catalan leader's push for independence as "fanaticism".

"We are ready for any circumstances because we are already vaccinated against the fanaticism of Mr. Puigdemont and any hope that he will return to sanity and serenity," she said. 

Switching from the Catalan language to Spanish, Puigdemont appeared to return a thinly veiled barb at the deputy prime minister's comments.

"Our demands have always been expressed peacefully, we are not criminals, we are not crazy, we are not staging a coup," he said, adding: "We cannot force the people to accept a status quo that they can't accept."

The Catalans held an independence referendum on October 1 and secured a 92 percent vote in favour of separating from Spain.

However, a unionist boycott of the vote meant turnout stood at just 43 percent.

Spain's government tried to block that vote by force and faced criticism when images of police officers confiscating ballot boxes and dragging voters away from polling stations were broadcast globally.

Madrid has the backing of Spain's courts, which ruled last week to block Tuesday's gathering of the Catalan parliament. 

The Spanish monarch, King King Felipe VI, has also called on the government to maintain the "constitutional order".

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