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Catalan Leader Says Not Seeking 'Traumatic' Split With Madrid

Catalan Leader Says Region Has Earned Right To Independence
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Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said that he is not pursuing a "traumatic" split from Spain but a "new understanding."

Puigdemont's statement came a day after hundreds of people were injured when police used force to try to disrupt a referendum on independence for Catalonia on October 1.

Puigdemont claimed that the vote, which attracted millions of voters despite being ruled illegal by Spain's Constitutional Court, was valid and binding. He said that the region in northeastern Spain had won the right to statehood.

"We have to apply it," Puidgemont said.

However, he told a news conference on October 2: "We don't want a traumatic break.... We want a new understanding with the Spanish state."

The Catalan leader said he had had no contact with the central Spanish government and called on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say whether he was in favor of mediation in talks over the region's future, to be overseen by the European Union.

Rajoy said Catalans had been fooled into taking part in an illegal vote, and Spain's government sent thousands of police into the region to try to prevent the vote from taking place.

More than 2.2 million people were reported to have voted, according to Catalan authorities, out of 5.3 million registered voters in the region, which includes the city of Barcelona.

Just under 90 percent of those who voted backed independence, they said.

Riot police used rubber bullets and batons in a show of force that drew international condemnation. Regional authorities said nearly 900 people were injured.

Rajoy has the constitutional power to dismiss the regional government and put Catalonia under central control pending fresh elections.

However, that would raise tensions further in the prosperous region of 7.5 million people, which has a distinct language and culture.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and BBC