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article imageSacked Catalan leader holds Brussels meeting despite Madrid opposition

By AFP     Jan 24, 2018 in World

Catalonia's ousted president Carles Puigdemont met Wednesday with the speaker of the region's parliament in Brussels despite efforts by Spain's central government to prevent the talks.

Puigdemont had originally been due to meet with Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent and four other members of his sacked government at Catalonia's trade mission in Brussels.

But they were forced to move the meeting to another nearby location after Spain's central government ordered Catalonia's representative in Brussels not to allow it to take place at the mission, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

"The representative of the Catalan government in Brussels has been instructed not to allow this meeting to take place in the building of the Catalan diplomatic mission," the source told AFP just before the meeting was due.

Puigdemont is set to hold a press conference after the meeting ends at around 1pm (1200 GMT).

The gathering comes just two days after Torrent - who is also pro-independence - proposed Puigdemont as president of Catalonia following a snap election in December in which separatist parties again won an absolute majority.

But Puigdemont, who faces arrest over his independence push if he returns to Spain, has to figure out how he can be officially voted in at a parliamentary session due by the end of the month.

He has said he could be sworn in from Brussels, a plan Spain's central government opposes. He has also said he would rather return to Spain but the central government vowed to order his arrest.

Madrid sacked Puigdemont and his entire government after the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence in late October.

Charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, he has been living in Belgium in self-imposed exile since the end of October.

Catalonia's official representative in Brussels has been under the authority of Madrid since Spain's central government placed the region under its direct control following the independence bid.

"We reserve the right to study the legal implications of this situation", a spokesman for Puigdemont's Together for Catalonia party, Joan Maria Pique, said in Brussels Wednesday.

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