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Catalan leader insists on vote

The leader of Spain's Catalonia region has told the Spanish prime minister he intends pushing ahead with a secession referendum in November despite the central government's refusal to allow it.

Speaking after a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Mariano Rajoy, Catalonia president Artur Mas said that although there was no agreement on the referendum issue, there was a willingness on both sides to keep talking, and that was positive.

Mas said Catalonia wants the November 9 referendum to be held legally and, if possible, with Madrid's blessing.

The independence campaign holds profound consequences for Spain as it emerges from a severe economic crisis. Europe will be watching the debate closely as Scotland also prepares to hold a vote in September on breaking away from Britain.

A Spanish government statement said Rajoy had reiterated to Mas that the planned referendum was illegal and would be blocked.

Rajoy said the most important thing right now for all of Spain, including Catalonia, was to consolidate the recovery from a severe economic crisis the country has endured since 2008. Unemployment is at 25%.

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