Wary Spain waits on Syria stance

The Spanish Government is playing a game of wait and see on Syria but a top official hinted on Thursday that the country was likely to line up with its allies in the event of a military intervention in the war-torn country.

Wary Spain waits on Syria stance
Members of the Islamist Syrian opposition group Ahrar al-Sham. The United Nations says over 100,000 people have died in the country's conflict. Photo: Alice Martins/AFP

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will take a stance on Syria based on "full knowledge" of the situation, the Vice-Secretary General for Organization for Spain's ruling Popular Party (PP) Carlos Floriano said.

"I have the impression we have to be with our allies," Floriano told Spain's Cadena Cope radio station.

"In that sense, I believe we will be in the correct position," he added.

The United States, Spain and France are gearing up for possible military involvement in Syria with the governments of those countries claiming the regime led by Bashar al-Assad carried out recent chemical weapons attacks which killed over a 1,000 people.

UN inspectors are currently investigating the alleged attacks with preliminary results expected on Saturday.

Spain's Foreign Affairs Ministry on Wednesday said evidence of any such attacks would require "a firm response from the international community", ABC newspaper reported.

On Tuesday, sources within the foreign ministry also said any intervention in Syria would need to have a firm legal backing.

The ministry also said it had faith the United Nations Security Council could "take decisions that would enforce international law and put an end to the drama in Syria".

The current crisis in Syria began in March 2011, growing out of the wider Arab Spring protest movement.

Protests against the long-running regime of al-Assad were brutally suppressed by the country's military. Those protests then became an armed insurrection against the country's government.

In July, the United Nations said over 100,000 people had died in the conflict.

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Catalan leader accuses Spain of ‘worst attack’ since Franco

Catalonia's leader accused Madrid on Saturday of waging the "worst attack" on his region since dictator Francisco Franco after the central government took drastic measures to stop it from breaking away.

Catalan leader accuses Spain of 'worst attack' since Franco
Pro-independence demonstrators in Barcelona on October 21st 2017. Photo: AFP

In a televised announcement, Carles Puigdemont said Madrid was failing to respect the rule of law after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced he would move to dismiss Catalonia's separatist executive, take control of regional ministries and call elections. The premier said he had no other choice faced with the threat to national unity.

Puigdemont said the measures were “incompatible with a democratic attitude and do not respect the rule of law,” calling on the regional parliament to meet over the crisis.

He accused the Spanish government, which still has to get approval from the Senate to implement the measures, of waging “the worst attack on institutions and Catalan people since the decrees of military dictator Francisco Franco abolishing the Catalan government”.

Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist from 1939 to his death in 1975, and among other repressive measures took Catalonia's powers away and officially banned the Catalan language.

Cautious, though, Puigdemont did not once say the word “independence” as Spain and the rest of the EU waits to see if he declares a unilateral break from Spain after the region held a banned independence referendum on October 1st.

Carles Puigdemont. Photo: AFP

Puigdemont delivered most of his short speech in Catalan, but also switched to Spanish and English.

In Spanish, he accused Madrid of “attacking democracy”.

And in English, he said European values were at risk.

“Democratically deciding the future of a nation is not a crime,” he said.

Led by Puigdemont, 450,000 supporters of independence protested in Barcelona on Saturday, shouting “freedom” and “independence” after Madrid announced drastic measures to stop the region from breaking away.

“It's time to declare independence,” said Jordi Balta, a 28-year-old stationery shop employee, adding there was no longer any room for dialogue.

The protest in the centre of the Catalan capital had initially been called to push for the release of the leaders of two hugely influential grassroots independence organisations, accused of sedition and jailed pending further investigation.

But it took on an even angrier tone after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced his government would move to dismiss the region's separatist government, take control of its ministries and call fresh elections in Catalonia.

Municipal police said 450,000 people rallied on Barcelona's large Paseo de Gracia boulevard, spilling over on to nearby streets, many holding Catalonia's yellow, red and blue Estelada separatist flag.

READ ALSO: Spain to dismiss Catalonia's government, call elections