October 6, 2014 / 6:34 PM / 3 years ago

Catalonia government to decide by October 15 whether to hold referendum

Catalonia's President Artur Mas addresses the media after a meeting with pro-independence parties at the Generalitat (government) Palace in Barcelona October 3, 2014.Gustau Nacarino

MADRID (Reuters) - The government of the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia will decide by October 15 whether to push ahead with a contested referendum on separation from the rest of Spain, a spokesman said on Monday.

Catalonia, with a population of 7.5 million people, its own language and accounting for a fifth of Spain's economy, has long sought independence and was buoyed by the close result of last month's referendum in Scotland.

But Spain's central government says the referendum called for November 9 is illegal and the country's Constitutional Court has suspended it while it deliberates on its legality, a process that could take months or years.

"We can't decide on this... on November 7 or 8," said Francesc Homs, spokesman for the Catalan government, in a radio interview.

Artur Mas, the leader of Catalonia, is under pressure from more radical pro-independence supporters to defy Madrid and the Constitutional Court and push ahead with the referendum.

Although his administration initially temporarily suspended campaigning for the referendum after the court ruling, it later changed its tone and said it would push on.

In a television advertisement on Saturday it said it had agreed "to take the legal, political and institutional initiative to guarantee the right to decide the political future of Catalonia".

Reporting By Sarah Morris; Editing by Julien Toyer

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