Spanish govt threaten direct rule as they impose deadline for clarification from Catalan leaders

Update - 5.43pm: The Spanish government has given Catalan leaders a Monday deadline to clarify whether independence has been declared, an official said.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has demanded that the leader of Catalonia makes the clarification.

In doing so, he issued a veiled threat that the central government could limit or rescind Catalan autonomy if he has.

Mr Rajoy said Catalan president Carles Puigdemont's response would be crucial in deciding "events over the coming days".

The prime minister's remarks today marked the first time Mr Rajoy has openly said invoking a section of the Spanish Constitution that allows the government to assert control over regions would be the next step, if Catalan authorities do not backtrack.

The central government "wants to offer certainty to citizens" and it was "necessary to return tranquillity and calm", he said following a special cabinet meeting.

Earlier: Catalonia's pro-independence leader has said his regional government is prepared to have talks on independence without preconditions with Spain.

To date, Carles Puigdemont has repeatedly said the right to self-determination must be on the table in any talks.

Spain, in turn, says it cannot discuss an independence referendum as it goes against the constitution.

Mr Puigdemont said on Wednesday that Spain and Catalonia should "have no prior conditions to sit down and talk".

Mr Puigdemont's interview with CNN came before Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy demanded that the Catalan leader clarify whether he had declared independence in a speech on Tuesday.

Mr Puigdemont was not asked in the interview whether he indeed had proclaimed independence.


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