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Catalonia pushes for independence vote

Madrid - Local lawmakers in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia voted to seek a referendum on breaking away from Spain on Thursday, setting themselves up for a battle with an implacably imposed central government in Madrid.

Catalonia's President Artur Mas, right, shakes hands with leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya Oriol Junqueras after a vote in the regional parliament in Barcelona to send a petition for referendum to the national parliament. Picture: Albert Gea. Credit: REUTERS

The Catalan Parliament in Barcelona voted 87 to 43, with 3 abstentions, to send a petition to the national parliament seeking the power to call a popular vote on the region's future.

The independence movement in Catalonia, which has its own language and represents a fifth of Spain's national economy, is a direct challenge to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has pledged to block a referendum on constitutional grounds.

Independence for the region, which already has significant self-governing powers, is thus considered a remote possibility, but Catalan President Artur Mas is buoyed by a groundswell of public support to defy Madrid with plans for a referendum. - Reuters

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