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Member of Catalan government calls for 'ceasefire' with Madrid

Spaniards pack the Colon square in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. Thousands of pro-Spanish unity supporters donning Spanish flags have rallied in a central Madrid plaza to protest the Catalan regional government's drive to separate from Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)

A member of Catalonia's separatist-led government has called for a "ceasefire" with Spain to decrease tensions after a disputed referendum on independence by the prosperous region.

Santi Vila, Catalonia's regional chief for business, told Cadena SER Radio he is pushing for "a new opportunity for dialogue" under "a ceasefire" with Spanish authorities.

Sr Vila said he is against Catalonia unilaterally declaring independence at the moment and wants to see a committee of experts from both sides working towards a solution to the crisis.

Separatists say they won the October 1 referendum, but Madrid says the vote was illegal, invalid and unconstitutional.

Less than half of the electorate cast ballots in the referendum which was marred by a brutal police crackdown.

Sr Vila said: "We have to give it one more chance, maybe the last chance, and perhaps the only way that can happen is to start with a ceasefire."

"We can all calm down and give ourselves the opportunity to not take any decisions and see what channels we can open up to start a serene dialogue."

The call for prudence came after some of Catalonia's most important banks and businesses announced they were relocating their headquarters to ensure the possible secession would not immediately knock them out of the European Union and its lucrative common market.

Meanwhile, thousands gathered in Madrid for a rally against the independence push, turning the Plaza de Colon into a sea of Spanish flags.

Sr Vila said he would like to see Spanish authorities return powers to the region which they have assumed in recent weeks, including control of a large part of its finances.

It is unclear how widespread his moderate position is inside the Catalan government, which is being pressured from separatist grassroots groups and the far-left party CUP to declare independence soon.

The most recent regional elections and polls taken before the referendum showed that the region's 7.5 million residents were roughly split on the issue.

Catalonia's top two banks, Caixbank and Banco Sabadell, as well as energy giant Gas Natural, hurriedly transferred their headquarters to other parts of Spain this week.

Other leading Catalan companies have said they are considering similar moves.

Separatist legislators had planned to discuss a secession plan on Monday, but that session in the regional parliament was suspended by the Constitutional Court.

The focus has shifted to Tuesday, when Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is set to address the regional parliament "to report on the current political situation".

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