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Spanish leader Rajoy mulls suspending Catalonia autonomy

Spanish leader Rajoy mulls suspending Catalonia autonomy

Rajoy also said he planned to leave in Catalonia the extra 4,000 police officers the government had shipped in to region for an independence vote on October 1 until the crisis was over.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday he would not rule out using the constitutional powers to remove Catalonia's autonomous status if it claimed independence as tens of thousands took to the streets to call for talks.

Sunday's rally comes a week after separatist leaders of the Catalan government held a referendum on secession that Spain's top court had suspended and the Spanish government said was illegal. Attendees respected the organizers' call to not bring the Spanish or Catalan flag.

"Although the degree of force and violence used by the Spanish authorities against the demonstrators is shocking and unprecedented, other States accept and recognize a "remedial secession" only as ultima ratio in case of grave atrocities against the population by their own government (as it was argued, for example, in the secession of Kosovo 2008)".

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont is expected to address the regional parliament on Tuesday.

The demonstration in Barcelona was organised by the anti-independence group Catalan Civil Society under the slogan "Let's recover our senses" to mobilise what it believes is a "silent majority" of citizens in Catalonia who oppose independence.

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At the same time, according to Rahoy, the Spanish authorities do not need any mediation to settle the situation in Catalonia.

Thousands of people gathered Saturday in Madrid to defend the unity of Spain, the Constitution and the rule of law in the face of an independence challenge and a possibility of an imminent unilateral declaration of independence in Catalonia.

"It is evident that we will take whatever decision that we are permitted to by law, in view of how things are unfolding", Rajoy told the El Pais newspaper in an interview.

But some people went further, chanting "Don't be fooled, Catalonia is Spain" and calling for Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to be jailed.

"I hope that nothing will happen". "This [the situation in Catalonia] is a battle of Europe", he said.

The issue has divided opinion within the northeastern region, and the wider country. An AP reporter spoke with another man who had come from the northern Basque Country region.

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Mario Vargas Llosa, a victor of the Nobel Prize for Literature who lived in Barcelona as a young writer, blamed "the ravages of nationalism" for the current impasse.

Earlier, thousands of people rallied across the country for Spanish unity.

"People of peace that are here, we don't want war, we don't want conflict with Catalonia. It's not a state like Kosovo", Mr Borrell told the crowd.

The rallies followed days of soaring tensions after police cracked down on voters during a banned October 1 Catalan independence referendum, prompting regional leaders to warn they would declare unilaterally declare independence in days.

Catalonia's separatists camp has grown in recent years, strengthened by Spain's recent economic crisis and by Madrid's rejection of attempts to increase self-rule in the region.

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