Catalan mayors support holding independence vote

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Thousands of Basques holding banners that read "we want to decide" marched on Saturday (Sep 16) in support of Catalonia's independence referendum to separate from Madrid, which Basque separatists have long fought for.

Hundreds of mayors stood on Saturday next to regional President Carles Puigdemont and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau.

Catalonia's regional government insists a vote will take place on October 1 but the Spanish government has vowed to block it, describing it as "unconstitutional". Organizing the referendum will be almost impossible without the cooperation of local municipalities.

Brandishing ir solemn stick of mayor, councillors gared at headquarters of regional government have sung anm in catalan, Els segadors, while a crowd of protesters, often with flags of independence movements, shouting from outside: "We are with you".

"It's a disgrace that we have a government that is incapable of dialogue and instead dedicates itself to pursuing and intimidating mayors and the media", Colau said.

Polls in July showed that 70 percent of Catalans want the chance to vote on their independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has rejected calls by Catalan officials for negotiations on a vote.

"The only thing I ask of mayors is that they comply with the law, and as such don't participate in an illegal referendum", Rajoy said.

He added that if Catalonia gains independence, it will not be able to become an EU member state immediately after the referendum and will have to follow the same accession process to be admitted to the European Union as those countries that had been entering the bloc since 2004.

Armed police have raided print works and newspaper offices in Catalonia in search of voting papers and ballot boxes to be used in the referendum - to no avail.

Spain's Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said a mechanism has been approved to allow central government to take over the funding of most essential public services in Catalonia.

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