Rajoy urges Spain to show its 'love' in anti-terror march

by Marianne BARRIAUX
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Rajoy urges Spain to show its 'love' in anti-terror march

Rajoy urges Spain to show its 'love' in anti-terror march

Madrid (AFP) - Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called Friday on Spaniards to come out in force in a weekend march against terror to show their "love" and solidarity with Catalonia, a region that wants to separate from Spain.

The march takes place on Saturday afternoon as Catalonia and the rest of Spain reel from a van rampage in Barcelona and a car attack in the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils last week that killed 15 people and injured over 120 others.

In unusually warm comments at a time of high tension between Rajoy and separatist leaders in Catalonia where the vehicle rampages took place, he praised the rapid work of the local police and spoke of the state's affection for the region.

Only last month, he had accused Catalan leaders of "authoritarian delusions" which he pledged would "never defeat the serenity and harmony of our democratic state."

On Friday, Rajoy called on "everyone to participate in tomorrow's protest in Barcelona" against extremism.

"There, with all of Catalan society and all of Spain... we will once again give a clear message of unity and condemnation of terrorism, and of love for the city of Barcelona," he said.

Rajoy will join King Felipe VI, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont and many others at the march.

Speaking to reporters, he said the king -- Spain's head-of-state -- would take part to "express his love for the people of Barcelona, of Cambrils, of Catalonia".

He also praised the rapid work of the region's Mossos d'Esquadra police squad in dismantling the terror cell behind the attacks.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, he said the nucleus of the terror cell had been "completely disarticulated in just 100 hours."

"That says a lot about the preparation and ability of the Mossos," he added, congratulating the Catalan force which enjoys a high level of autonomy.

- Good police cooperation -

He also extended his praise to the Guardia Civil and Spain's national police, in what appeared to be a bid to ease tensions between the country's security forces.

Earlier this week, the unions of the Guardia Civil and national police complained the Catalan force had left them out of the investigation for political reasons.

It also accused the Mossos of ignoring important information they had about suspects.

In their joint statement, they claimed that Catalonia's separatist executive had left them out in the cold because they wanted to project an image abroad of Catalan self-sufficiency ahead of a planned October 1 referendum on independence.

But Rajoy said cooperation between different forces had been "fluid and constant."

He also raised the possibility of giving the Mossos a bigger role in the Spanish unit that liaises with European police agency Europol -- as repeatedly requested by Puigdemont.

Rajoy and Puigdemont have for months been at loggerheads over the Catalan leader's drive to separate from Spain.

But both displayed a show of unity in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, appearing side by side in public events.

This appearance of harmony was shattered on Friday when Puigdemont accused Madrid of "playing politics" with the security of Catalans by blocking the hiring of new Mossos officers this year, in an interview with the Financial Times.

He also reiterated his determination to hold the referendum.

"We have more than 6,000 ballot boxes already. I do not see how the state can stop it," he said.