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Calm Spanish PM cool on 'new' Catalonia vote

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Calm Spanish PM cool on 'new' Catalonia vote
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy outside Madrid's Carlos III recently after speaking doctors treating Spanish nursing assistant with Ebola Teresa Romero. Photo: Curto de la Torre/AFP
12:28 CEST+02:00
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday talked down the importance of a newly announced unofficial November 9th independence poll in Catalonia, saying now was the time for sensible dialogue on the issue.

"A triumph for democracy and the law." That's how Rajoy chose on Wednesday to describe the recent decision by Catalan President Artur Mas to renounce plans for a referendum on the issue of independence in the region.

The strong words echoed his own comments from Monday when he described Mas's change of plans as "great news". 

Spain's conservative central government in Madrid had repeatedly said the non-binding referendum was unconstitutional and the country's Constitutional Court had suspended it while it examined whether the vote was legal.

Speaking in the halls of the national parliament on Wednesday, however, Rajoy refused to be drawn on his opinions of the new unofficial poll unveiled by the Catalan leader on Tuesday.

"I don't know what has been announced for the 9th (of November), but the only criteria are dialogue and the law. And if we see there are things (in the new poll) which run counter to legislation, we will have to appeal them," the prime minister said.

Rajoy did state, however, that Mas's change of tack opened "a path of dialogue and not to take unilateral decisions".

"We are willing to talk. There is a path that millions of Spaniards want us to set out on," he said.

The prime minister's measured comments were in stark contrast to those of fellows members of his ruling conservative Popular Party on Tuesday.

Mas had "descended into ridicule" with the vote, PP parliamentary spokesperson Alfonso Alonso said, while the head of the Popular Party in Catalonia, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho said the Catalan independence movement was over and that the new planned consultation "means nothing". 

It's a "pretend vote" and a "big survey" with no legal relevance, said Sanchez-Camacho in a press conference.

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