Catalan separatist urges unity as pressure builds in Spain
One of Catalonia's top separatist leaders pushing for a break from Spain has called for unity as disputes over strategy threaten to split the secessionists.
Oriol Junqueras, Catalonia's regional vice president and head of the Republican Left party, said on Saturday: "We must preserve the unity that is necessary to go all the way on this path to a republic."
The leaders of the prosperous northeastern region of 7.5 million people want to leave Spain.
Fissures have appeared among Catalan separatists ever since regional President Carles Puigdemont announced on Tuesday that he was delaying an outright declaration of independence "for a few weeks" to give talks with Spain's central government in Madrid a chance.
The far-left party CUP and a grassroots secessionist group have both asked Mr Puigdemont not to wait any longer.
Mr Junqueras said: "We must reiterate our belief in unity, in unity behind our government and the majority of the parliament."
He delivered his message to 200 party members at its headquarters in Barcelona. The Republican Left party forms a governing coalition with Mr Puigdemont's conservatives in Catalonia's regional parliament and its allegiance is critical to the secessionist drive.
Mr Junqueras said the best way forward was for secessionists to show "the world who it is, who wants to offer dialogue and who rejects it."
Spain's conservative government, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, is also pressing Mr Puigdemont.
It has given him a Monday deadline to clarify his position on independence as well as an ultimatum to fall in line with Spain's laws by October 19 or face losing some or all of the region's autonomous powers.
Mr Puigdemont is facing an exodus of banks and businesses relocating their headquarters from Catalonia to other parts of Spain over fears they would be out of the common European Union market in the case of secession.
Spain's government has also warned that the constitutional crisis in Catalonia is already hurting the economy.
Mr Puigdemont claimed he has a mandate for secession after a Yes vote for independence in the referendum on October 1, which Spain's top court had suspended on grounds it is likely unconstitutional.
Only 43% of eligible voters cast ballots amid a violent crackdown by Spanish police. Parties against secession boycotted the vote.