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Catalonia’s new separatist government sworn in

Catalonia’s new separatist government sworn in

MADRID-Spain lifted direct rule in Catalonia on Saturday after regional government leaders were sworn in, concluding an unprecedented attempt by Madrid to contain a separatist push that threatened to splinter the country.

The new Catalan cabinet was sworn in after months of tensions with the central government, ending Madrid's seven-month direct rule of the region, imposed by Sanchez's predecessor after separatists declared independence.

This will be a major challenge for the new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Quim Torra, a close ally of sacked former president Carles Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile, will lead the regional government.

"We need to sit down at the same table and negotiate, government to government", Torra said.

Mr Sánchez is opposed to another independence referendum in Catalonia, but wants talks on the situation in the prosperous region.

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Not even two hours after Sanchez had taken his oath to uphold the Spanish Constitution, Catalan chief Quim Torra demanded to meet with Sanchez and speak "government to government" regarding the future of the restive northeastern region. This would have to be decided during legal proceedings in Spain, they said.

But they have very different targets, with Spain's Socialists, who had backed Rajoy's Catalonia policy, opposing independence.

In order to cobble together the support to cast out Rajoy, Sanchez promised to open talks with Torra in order to get the votes he needed from the Catalan pro-secession lawmakers in the national parliament.

"Let's talk, let's deal with this question, let's take risks, you and us".

Socialists only hold 84 seats in the 350-member assembly, which could make any bold move on the economic or political front - including on Catalonia - hard.