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Catalans under pressure to drop independence

ReutersBARCELONA/MADRID (Reuters) — Catalonia’s secessionist leader faced increased pressure on Monday to abandon plans to declare independence from Spain, with France and Germany expressing support for the country’s unity.

The Madrid government, grappling with Spain’s biggest political crisis since an attempted military coup in 1981, said it would respond immediately to any such unilateral declaration.

A week after a vote on independence which the government did its utmost to thwart, the tension also took its toll on the business climate of Spain’s wealthiest region.

Three more Catalonia-based companies joined a business exodus from the region that has gathered steam since the Oct. 1 referendum.

Spain’s finance minister said it was the Catalan government’s fault the companies were leaving.

Regional leader Carles Puigdemont was due to address the regional parliament on Tuesday afternoon and Madrid is worried it will vote for a unilateral declaration of independence.

Catalan officials say people voted overwhelmingly for secession in the Oct. 1 referendum, which had been declared illegal by the government. Some 900 people were injured on polling day when police fired rubber bullets and stormed crowds with truncheons to disrupt the voting.

The issue has deeply divided the northeastern region as well as the Spanish nation. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against breaking away in Barcelona at the weekend. They say the referendum did not show the true will of the region because those who want to stay in Spain mainly boycotted it.

Buoyed by the show of support, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said on Monday: “I’m calling on the sensible people in the Catalan government ... don’t jump off the edge because you’ll take the people with you.”

“If there is a unilateral declaration of independence there will be decisions made to restore law and democracy,” she told COPE radio station.Speech

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