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Catalan leader refuses to clarify independence stance

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 16/10/2017
Puigdemont has so far failed to clarify whether or not he is declaring secession from Spain [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters] © Provided by Al Jazeera Puigdemont has so far failed to clarify whether or not he is declaring secession from Spain [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has failed to clarify whether he declared Catalonia's independence from Spain last week.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had given him until Monday 10:00am local (08:00 GMT) to make his position clear and until Thursday to change his mind if he called for to secede.

Rajoy has threatened that Madrid would suspend Catalonia's autonomy if Puigdemont chooses secession.

In his letter to Rajoy on Monday, Puigdemont did not directly answer yes or no to whether he is declaring independence, and said the two sides should meet.

"Our offer for dialogue is sincere despite everything that has happened," Puigdemont says in the letter.

"He's not going to say yes or no as to whether or not the independence has been declared," said Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, reporting from Barcelona. "All we have now is this key letter which sets out a series of demands, and completely obfuscates the question set forth by Madrid."

On the Catalan demand for talks, "Rajoy has made it clear that negotiations are not on the table".

Puigdemont also demanded the withdrawal of national police, of which there are 12,000 in Catalonia.

"Another demand is the immediate release of four, key, high-profile Catalans," said Barker. "We're talking about senior police officials and two leaders of civil society organisations that have links to the Catalan leadership. The police officials face charges of sedition which carry a possible 15-year prison sentence."

Catalans voted on October 1 to secede from Spain in a referendum that was marred by violence.

Spain's constitutional court ordered a suspension of the referendum the day after it was announced, following an appeal from the Spanish government which said the plebiscite would breach the country's constitution.

Spain's 1978 constitution decrees that the country is indivisible, and grants the national government exclusive power to hold referendums.

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