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Row in Spain breaks out over control of police in Barcelona

Spain's central government and Catalan regional authorities are arguing over the control of police forces ahead of the planned independence vote. Madrid considers the referendum to be illegal.

Spain's public prosecutor named Colonel Diego Perez de los Cobos of the Civil Guard as police coordinator in charge of all anti-referendum policing operations for the Civil Guard, National Police, Catalan Police (Mossos) and local police in Barcelona on Saturday. 

Spanish media quoted government sources as saying the measure did not mean withdrawing any powers from the Mossos formally, but rather requiring them to submit to a joint coordination operation to stop the Catalan referendum taking place on October 1.

The measures follow Spain's 1986 Security Forces Act which allows the central government to take control of a regional police force "when they deem it necessary."

Several Mossos d'Esquadra police stand guard during a pro-independence protest in Barcelona.

Mossos d'Esquadra police during a pro-independence protest in Barcelona

Separatists vow to press ahead

The Catalan government issued a statement saying it did not "accept the interior ministry taking command of the Mossos d'Esquadra" and the region's interior minister Joaquim Forn, whose department manages the Mossos said they were looking into taking legal action against "this interference from the state."

"The Catalan government does not accept this intervention of the state because it does not take into account all the legal framework that we have in order to take care of the security in Catalonia," he said.

Forn said the head police officer of the Mossos d'Esquadra had expressed his opposition to the measure.

"We will continue working like we've done until now," a statement posted on the "Mossos" official Twitter account. "We will exercise our powers to guarantee security and public order and be at the service of citizens."

jm/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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