EU urges dialogue in cautious reaction to Catalonia crisis

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Catalan regional leaders held the vote in defiance of the national government which labels it illegal.

Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona all announced on Monday that they would join a region-wide general strike in Catalonia yesterday, following the weekend's events.

"We, Italians and Europeans, are viewing ourselves as big friends of Spain - and we are ready to extend a helping hand believing that is necessary to respect rules and boost the dialogue", Gentiloni said at the Italian-Spanish forum on Monday.

The Barcelona defender was in Madrid to train with the Spanish national team.

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The vast majority of Barcelona's stars, including five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, who has been an outspoken defender of Catalonia's right to self-determination, wouldn't have trained with Barca on Tuesday in any case as they are on worldwide duty with their respective nations.

Zeid, a Jordanian prince who goes by his first name, also urged Madrid to accept "without delay" the requests of two United Nations -mandated investigators on freedom of assembly and minorities to be granted access to visit Catalonia.

Madrid refused to recognize the vote as legitimate and Spanish police moved in to shut down polling station, prompting clashes with protesters and voters.

"They have placed themselves totally outside the law and democracy", he said of the Catalan leadership.

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Before the vote, polls indicated that a minority of around 40 percent of the region's total 7.5 million Catalans supported independence, but many opposed to the referendum did not participate.

Pressure has grown over the last five years for the Spanish government to allow this vote to happen, but the Spanish prime minister has refused, saying it goes against the constitution of Spain, which talks about the "unity" of the country.

Over 5.3 million citizens were called to answer the question: 'Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state as a republic?'.

"My government, in the next few days will send the results of today's vote to the Catalan parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum".

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He later spearheaded the independence referendum, which many of his critics saw as a bid to extend his rule. Talabani had been hospitalised several times in recent years ever since he suffered a stroke in 2012.

The Catalan government said more than 800 people had been injured in clashes across the region.

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