'Stop lying', Spanish minister tells Catalan separatists

An armed Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra officer stands guard at Las Ramblas in Barcelona Spain

The development came as US President Donald Trump and Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told journalists they opposed the referendum in Spain's Catalonia region scheduled for Sunday.

"I think the people of Catalonia have been talking about this for a long time".

The ministry had announced earlier in the day it would begin co-ordinating all police efforts in Catalonia to crack down on preparations for the vote, including sending direct orders to the Mossos, as the north-eastern region's largest police force are often called.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has tweeted several links to websites directing people where to vote on Sunday, but these have been taken down after a court-ordered sites that facilitate such information be blocked.

It has since fought for the right to hold a legally binding vote.

"I would like to think that the faux pas [remarks of Sanders and Nauert] is only due to ignorance", said Ruperez, "Otherwise, we might be taken to believe that the American Government is contemplating favorably the breaking up of the territorial integrity of one of the U.S.'s closest allies and friends".

President Trump welcomes Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy outside the West Wing of the White House on September 26.

Anyone in possession of the keys or entrance codes to a polling booth could be considered a collaborator to crimes of disobedience, malfeasance and misappropriation of funds, the order said. Since Madrid considers the vote illegal, it would swiftly act to prevent the Catalan government doing this. Hundreds of police reinforcements have been brought into Barcelona and other cities.

These actions have provoked mass demonstrations and drawn accusations from Catalan leaders that the Madrid government was resorting to the repression of the Franco dictatorship.

"I bet you if you had accurate numbers and accurate polling, you'd find that they love their country, they love Spain and they wouldn't leave, so I'm just for a united Spain", Trump said.

But the unrelenting opposition from Madrid means such a result would go all but unrecognised, potentially setting up a new phase of the dispute.

He also said the risk of violence was of concern to many people.

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