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Catalan leader defies independence ultimatum in face of direct rule threat

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Catalan leader defies independence ultimatum in face of direct rule threat

Catalonia appeared on course for direct rule from Madrid after the region's president avoided saying whether or not he had declared independence in response to an ultimatum from the Spanish government.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said Oct. 10 that the region had voted to secede from Spain but that it would suspend independence while it sought a dialogue. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy then gave the regional government until Oct. 16 to clarify whether it had declared independence. Instead, Puigdemont sent a letter to the prime minister proposing a two-month period of talks with Madrid in a bid to seek a solution. "My government's priority is to seek dialogue with all intensity," Puigdemont said in the letter, in which he also condemned what he called "the brutal police violence" used to stop voters from participating in the Oct. 1 referendum and referred to "the repression of the people and government of Catalonia."

Speaking at a news conference, Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said that the government "deeply regrets" that the Catalan government "decided not to respond" to its request for clarity, adding that future dialogue must be held "within the law." She also revealed that the prime minister has sent a letter of his own to the Catalan leader, telling him that he has until Oct. 19 to clarify whether he will drop his bid for secession or that no declaration of independence occurred. Failure to do so would mean that the Spanish government will move to apply Article 155 of the national constitution and impose direct rule on the autonomous region.

Regional authorities said that they will not heed Madrid's call to clarify whether they have declared independence from Spain, Reuters said citing a report from the local TV3 station.