The Spanish government said on Thursday it would press ahead with steps to suspend the autonomy of Catalonia, after the region's separatist leader threatened to declare independence from Spain if Madrid continued its "repression."
"The Spanish government will continue with the procedures outlined in article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in Catalonia's self-government," it said in a statement, referring to an article that allows for Madrid to take direct control over a region in exceptional circumstances.
It called an urgent cabinet meeting for Saturday over Spain's worst political crisis in decades.
Madrid had set a Thursday morning deadline for Catalonia's regional president Carles Puigdemont to clarify whether or not he had declared independence in an ambiguous statement last week, and to drop his bid to separate from Spain.
In a letter sent to the government just as the deadline passed, Puigdemont said he would go ahead with a unilateral declaration of independence "if the central government persists in preventing dialogue and continuing repression."
But in what was considered an overture, Puigdemont also said independence had not been declared last week.
Still, the central government said he had not answered their requirements.