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Berlusconi says he wouldn't have sent police to block Catalan vote

The Local Spain
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Berlusconi says he wouldn't have sent police to block Catalan vote
Silvio Berlusconi speaking to journalists in Brussels. Photo: John Thys/AFP

Silvio Berlusconi says he would have responded differently to the Catalonia crisis than Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, backing a "legally controlled" referendum to resolve the situation.

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Speaking in Brussels at a meeting of the European People's Party (EPP), which both his Forza Italia and Rajoy's PP are members of, former Italy PM Berlusconi told journalists:

"Compared to Rajoy, I would not have sent in the Guardia Civil to stop the Catalans voting".

Spain's Guardia Civil have been criticised by some for being heavy-handed in attempting to block Catalans from taking part in the October 1st plebiscite deemed unconstitutional by courts, with NGO Human Rights Watch concluding they used excessive force in several instances.

READ ALSO: Spanish police used excessive force in Catalonia, Human Rights Watch says

The 81-year-old Italian politician also said the solution to the conflict in Spain is "dialogue" and a legally binding referendum.

"Right now it looks like we're in a time of escalating conflict – there's a deadline that ended today. I believe in dialogue followed by a legally controlled referendum, with the participation in the vote of all of the Catalans who want to remain in Spain," he noted.

Such a referendum would have to have "constitutional legitimacy", he added.

On Thursday the Spanish government said it will push ahead to invoke article 155 of the country's constitution and suspend Catalonia’s autonomy, following a letter from the region’s president Carles Puigdemont in which he threatened to formally vote through a suspended independence declaration if Madrid "persists in impeding dialogue". 

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