Catalan leader-elect requests dialogue with Spanish govtMay 15, 2018 4:57pm

BERLIN (AP) — Catalonia's president-elect asked Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday to talk with the region's separatist leaders, a request the incoming Catalan leader made while visiting his predecessor in Berlin.

Catalan lawmakers in Barcelona elected separatist Quim Torra on Monday to lead their region. He has vowed to build an independent Catalan republic by working under the leadership of former regional President Carles Puigdemont, who is in Germany fighting extradition to Spain.

"Please, Mr. Rajoy, put a date and a place and we will be there ... no preconditions, let's talk about everything, but let's talk," Torra said at a joint news conference with Puigdemont in Berlin.

Rajoy, who has fought relentlessly to deny Catalonia independence, said he was prepared to meet with Torra and listen to what the Catalan leader had to say. But he reiterated his position that secession is illegal and a non-negotiable issue.

"No (Catalan) independence has happened, no (Catalan) republic has come into being, nor will it," Rajoy said during an official visit to Bulgaria.

He noted that Spain's other two major parties — the Socialists and Citizens — supported his governing Popular Party's stance on the issue.

Torra, whose election ended a leadership vacuum of more than five months in Catalonia, said he also wants to visit the separatist leaders being held in Spanish jails over an outlawed independence referendum and illegal declaration of a separate Catalan state.

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