Catalan leader to call new election unless he gets support

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MADRID (AP) — Catalonia's pro-independence leader said Tuesday he will call a new regional election if there is no agreement in the coming days to re-elect him as president of the powerful northeastern Spanish region.

Artur Mas, who wants Catalonia to become independent from Spain by 2017, said the region's deputies have until Sunday to agree on supporting him. Otherwise, he will call an election Monday.

Mas' ruling conservative Convergence party and the Republican Left of Catalonia group joined forces under the "Together for Yes" alliance to win 62 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament last September. Mas then sought the support of the radical, anti-capitalist party, the CUP, which has 10 seats, to secure a workable majority and further the independence push.

The CUP, however, has repeatedly rejected Mas' candidacy because of his past government's austerity policies and his party's links to corruption scandals but says it will support another alliance candidate.

Mas said there is still time for an agreement but ruled out stepping down as a candidate.

"There will be no more offers," he said.

Mas has previously warned that fresh regional elections — the fourth in five years — could derail the independence drive.

Polls show that most Catalans support a referendum on independence, but are roughly evenly divided over breaking from Spain. The Spanish government has ruled out the possibility of a split.

Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people already enjoying considerable autonomy, represents nearly a fifth of Spain's economic output.

The impasse in Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, comes as Spain's main political parties seek pacts that would allow the formation of a national government in Madrid following an inconclusive general election last month.

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