We will halt this Catalan split, warns Spain's PM

Marchers in yesterday’s Pro Unity rally in Barcelona

Some protesters called for the region's separatist president Carles Puigdemont to go to jail for holding a vote on independence in defiance of the Spanish government and courts.

Mr Rajoy has not ruled out the "nuclear option" of removing the Catalan government and calling fresh regional elections. "We will do everything that legislation allows us to ensure this", Rajoy told the newspaper.

Benet Salellas of the separatist Catalan CUP party said: 'It's very clear to me that those who I represent won't accept any other scenario'.

Separatist politicians say there will be a declaration of independence for the northeastern region of 7.5 million during that session, although some ruling coalition lawmakers say the move could be simply "symbolic".

"We have listened to many people".

Catalan leaders say they want to remain part of the European Union, but Brussels says that an independent Catalonia would automatically be out and have to reapply to join.

"Spain will not be divided and the national unity will be preserved".

Ms Colau also urged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to pull out the extra police that have been drafted in to the northeast region as a "gesture of state responsibility". "I love Catalonia", said Fidelia Trabado, 68, a retired cleaner who moved to Catalonia when she was 18, wearing a cap with the Spanish flag at the rally.

Catalonia accounts for almost a fifth of Spain's economy, and leads all regions in producing 25% of the country's exports, CNNMoney reports.

Although the Catalan government are of the opinion that over 90% of voters voted in favour of independence, opinion polls and analysts are of the the opinion that this may not be the case as only 43% of registered voters turned up for the referendum.

Between 250,000 and 400,000 anti-independence Catalans, and supporters from the rest of Spain, marched through the streets of Barcelona on Sunday to protest any moves for a breakaway state, following a divisive and controversial referendum on October 1 that found a majority of Catalan voters in favor of independence.

Spain fears the Catalan parliament will vote for independence on Tuesday, when Puigdemont is due to address the assembly in the wake of the referendum in which officials say people voted overwhelmingly for secession.

Mr Puigdemont appeared steadfast on Sunday, saying a "yes" vote necessitated an independence declaration.

But Rajoy assured Catalan leaders that there "is still time" to backtrack and avoid the imposition of direct rule.

Images of police firing rubber bullets, restraining elderly people and pulling voters from polling booths by the hair have shocked people around the world.

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