The Latest: Spanish PM wants clarity on independence

MADRID — The Latest on the crisis over Catalonia’s independence bid (all times local):

12:20 p.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has formally demanded the Catalan leader clarify whether independence has been declared, saying that is needed before he can decide what steps to take.

In a veiled threat, Rajoy said the clarity was required by the constitutional article that would allow Spain to intervene and take control of some or all of Catalonia’s regional powers.

Rajoy issued the demand Wednesday following a special Cabinet meeting to respond to an announcement from the head of the wealthy Catalonia region that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence but was suspending it for several weeks to facilitate negotiations.

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12 noon

A Greek anarchist group has ended a brief, peaceful demonstration at Spain’s embassy in Athens to protest against the Spanish police crackdown on Catalonia’s independence referendum.

Police say 18 people were detained for questioning after they voluntarily left the embassy building in Athens city center.

No damage was reported during the two-hour protest.

The anarchist group Rubicon said that Wednesday’s protest was prompted by the Spanish government’s “violence and repression,” but it was not in support of Catalan independence.

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11:45 a.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is to deliver a statement at noon (1000GMT) Wednesday expected to focus on the response to a Catalan declaration of independence that separatists put on hold while calling for mediation efforts.

Rajoy chaired the closed-doors meeting at the government’s headquarters in the Moncloa Palace, on the outskirts of Madrid.

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said late Tuesday that he would proceed with the secession but would suspend it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations. But the government has given little indication it is willing to talk.

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10:55 a.m.

Police say a Greek anarchist group is staging a sit-in protest at the Spanish embassy in Athens.

In a posting on a left-wing website, the Rubicon group said Wednesday’s protest was held to protest the Spanish police crackdown on the Catalan independence referendum. The group added, however, that it does not support Catalan independence.

The group has staged a series of brief, peaceful invasions at the offices of state institutions, political parties and private corporations to protest policies it disagrees with.

Greek left-wing groups have expressed support for Catalonia’s independence drive, holding a peaceful protest at the Spanish embassy last week.

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10:30 a.m.

Cyprus has rejected a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia’s leader, saying it violates Spain’s constitution.

The ethnically divided island nation said Wednesday that it fully backs Spain’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and pledged solidarity with the country and its people.

Cyprus said the best way to resolve the crisis is through peaceful dialogue in line with the Spanish constitution.

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said Tuesday he would proceed with secession from Spain but was suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

Cyprus faces its own problem with breakaway Turkish Cypriots who declared independence in 1983, nine years after the island was split when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Only Turkey recognizes the island’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

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10:25 a.m.

Catalonia’s government spokesman says that if the Spanish government decides to intervene over the region’s autonomous powers, it will be seen that there is no willingness to talk and Catalonia will be obliged to press ahead with its commitment to independence.

Jordi Turull told Catalunya Radio that Wednesday’s events would show if the possibility of dialogue exists for the Spanish government, and “the international community will see.”

He said the Catalan government has not changed its plans but wants to talk.

Catalan government leader Carles Puigdemont said Tuesday he would proceed with the secession but would suspend it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

But the Spanish government, which is meeting Wednesday to discuss its response, said the declaration was inadmissible.

One of Spain’s options could be to apply Article 155 of the Constitution, which allows the central government to take some or total control of any of its 17 regions if they don’t comply with their legal obligations

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9:45 a.m.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia would be “irresponsible.”

Gabriel said in a written statement Wednesday, “Europe’s strength lies in its unity and the peace that was brought by the European unity.”

He said that “a solution can only be successful through talks based on the rule of law and within the frame of the Spanish constitution.”

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said Tuesday he would proceed with secession from Spain but was suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

The Spanish government is holding an urgent meeting Wednesday to discuss its next steps.

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9:15 a.m.

The Spanish government has started an urgent meeting to discuss its next steps to halt the northeastern region of Catalonia from proceeding with a declaration of independence.

Spanish national television showed images of the ministers gathered around a tabled as the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, got underway.

Wednesday’s meeting is taking place after Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said the previous day that he will proceed with the secession but is suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations in what is Spain’s most serious political crisis in decades.

Rajoy is to address parliament later Wednesday.

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8:45 a.m.

The Spanish government is to hold an urgent meeting to discuss its next steps to halt the northeastern region of Catalonia from proceeding with a declaration of independence.

Wednesday’s meeting is taking place after Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said the previous day that he would proceed with the secession but was suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

Spain responded by saying the declaration was inadmissible, adding that it was based on an invalid independence referendum.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is to appear before parliament later Wednesday to discuss the referendum and what he plans to do next.

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