The Latest: Spain PM: Catalan independence ‘good for nobody’

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

4:30 p.m.

Spain’s prime minister says that this month’s referendum in Catalonia was part of a strategy “to impose independence that few want and is good for nobody.”

Mariano Rajoy is addressing parliament a day after Catalan officials, including the regional president, signed what they called a declaration of independence from Spain. Rajoy has described the crisis as “one of the most difficult times in our recent history.”

Rajoy said that Catalan authorities broke the law by holding the Oct. 1 referendum and incited street protests to give an appearance of legitimacy to the vote. He also said that nobody should be proud of Catalonia’s referendum or the image it gave, and that not a single country supports Catalonia’s push for secession.

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2:40 p.m.

Spanish news reports say the National Court is summoning for further questioning two senior officers of Catalonia’s regional police force and the leaders of two pro-independence civic groups in connection with the referendum.

The private news agency Europa Press and other media outlets say the four are to appear Oct. 16 before investigative magistrate Carmen Lamela at the court in Madrid on suspicion of sedition.

The summons could not be immediately confirmed by the court.

The four were released after questioning last Friday but the court said they would be recalled once it reviewed new police evidence relating to the banned Oct. 1 referendum on Catalonia’s independence from Spain.

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2 p.m.

The European Union’s executive body says it remains firmly behind Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in his handling of the contested independence vote in the northern Catalonia region.

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis says that “the Commission is following closely the situation in Spain, and reiterates its earlier call for full respect of the Spanish constitutional order.”

He said EU commissioners on Wednesday briefly discussed developments in Spain. Catalonia’s separatist authorities have appealed to the Commission to help mediate with Madrid but Rajoy has not sought EU help.

Dombrovskis said: “We are supporting the efforts to overcome division and fragmentation, to ensure unity and respect of the Spanish constitution.”

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1:50 p.m.

Spain’s opposition leader says that the country’s two main parties have agreed to renegotiate laws governing autonomy amid Catalonia’s independence bid.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez says that a deal was reached with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to open talks in six months on reforming the constitution that would allow changes to current setup governing Spain’s 17 regions, including Catalonia.

Sanchez said that his party wanted the constitutional reform to “allow for Catalonia to remain a part of Spain.”

Sanchez says his party is backing Rajoy, who leads the ruling Popular Party, in pursuing clarification from the Catalan regional leader over whether independence for the northeastern prosperous region was declared Tuesday.

Sanchez said that Catalan president Carles Puigdemont needs to put it in “black and white” what his plans are.

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1:20 p.m.

A spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel says a declaration of independence by Catalonia “would be illegal and would not receive any recognition” from Germany.

Spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer, when asked if Germany would help negotiate between Spain and Catalonia, also told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday the German government considers Catalonia’s independence efforts an internal issue for Spain and Germany would not get involved.

Demmer added it’s important that Spain’s unity be maintained and that the rights of all Spaniards will be guaranteed.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy formally demanded the Catalan leader clarify whether independence has been declared following an announcement Tuesday 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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12:20 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 p.m.

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.

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