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Spain

Spanish parliament rejects Catalonia independence referendum

Spain's national parliament has overwhelmingly rejected a resolution calling for a referendum on independence in Catalonia. But the province's president has vowed to forge ahead with the campaign for secession.

After a seven hour debate on Tuesday, Spain's incumbent conservative and opposition socialist parties forged a united front, rejecting Catalonia's push for a referendum on independence in a 299-47 vote.

Only separatist parties from the Basque Country and Catalonia voted in favor of the resolution, while one legislator abstained. Catalonia's president, Artur Mas, vowed to exhaust all legal avenues to hold a vote on independence.

"They are afraid that the Catalan people vote," Mas said in a live speech after the parliamentary vote. "Some would like to present this as the end of the matter, but as president of Catalonia, I say to them that it is not the end."

"Catalan institutions will search through the legal frameworks to find a way to continue with this consultation," he continued.

The failed resolution scheduled the referendum for November 9th. On Saturday, the Catalan National Assembly laid out a roadmap for independence. The powerful regional lobby group called for Catalonia to officially declare independence from Spain by April 23, 2015.

'Together we all win'

Spain's Constitutional Court and the country's political leaders have rejected the proposed regional referendum as illegal, arguing that decisions on sovereignty can be made only at the national level.

Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told parliament on Tuesday that Spain must remain united.

"Together we all win, but separate, we all lose," Rajoy said. "I can't imagine Spain without Catalonia or Catalonia without Europe."

The European Union has supported Madrid's opposition to the referendum.

Catalonia accounts for one-fifth of the Spanish economy and 16 percent of its population. The region has its own language and has long pushed for greater autonomy.

Calls for independence have grown as Spain struggles to deal with the economic fallout from a burst real estate bubble and banking crisis.

slk/se (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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