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Europe

French Catalans could offer 'hospitality' to 'government-in-exile'

media People react as they watch a sesion of the Catalonian regional parliament on a giant screen at a pro-independence rally in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017. ©REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

French backers of Catalonia's possible secession from Spain plan to "offer hospitality to president Carles Puidgemont to lead a government-in-exile in Perpignan," a southern French city with deep Catalan roots, a statement said Monday.

Catalan separatists have threatened "mass civil disobedience" if Madrid carries out threats to depose their leaders, including Puidgemont, as tensions rise over a bid to sever the region from Spain.

"We feel that Europe has not been playing its role," said Jaume Roure, the head of Unitat Catalana which seeks self-determination for French Catalans.

"As the storms are gathering, we have asked people ... to see if they can host the Catalan government and those people who are forced to leave," he said, speaking of Perpignan, the capital of France's Pyrenees-Orientales department which acts as a bridge between Barcelona and the south of France.

The region was for centuries a part of Catalonia and only became French in the latter half of the 17th century.

Several Catalan Republicans fled to this region from Spain during the long dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

Spain pressured Catalan separatist leaders to abandon their independence drive Tuesday as radical pro-secessionists prepared plans for a campaign of "mass civil disobedience".

As Madrid prepared to pass measures by the weekend to remove Catalonia's leadership, far-left separatists were expected to detail their planned response if the central government moves to take over powers from the regional government.

The worst political crisis in Spain in decades was sparked by a banned October 1 independence referendum deemed illegal by the country's government and courts.

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