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Spain’s prime minister has made a fresh plea to Catalonians to reject calls for independence.

Speaking at a Popular’s Party campaign ahead of the region’s snap elections later this month, Mariano Rajoy described a break-up of Spain as a “backward step” at a time when more European unity is required.

“I want a Catalonia in Spain, in Europe, and I want a Spain in Europe like I want Galicia. That is our place, co-existing with democracy, freedom and progress in Catalonia,” he said.

Polls suggest Catalonia’s liberal nationalist prime minister, Artur Mas, will be re-elected – but it remains unclear whether that will lead to Spain’s break-up.

He called for an early election after his claims for more fiscal autonomy were rejected by the central government last month

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