Spain rejects referendum sought by separatists

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In this photo taken on June. 29, 2013, supporters make a mosaic with the words of Catalonia as they attend to a pro-independence festival in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Spanish region of Catalonia is set to see possibly its largest ever pro-independence rally on Wednesday when organizers are hoping to surpass the around one million people who took to streets of Barcelona last year, many of whom called for a free state. Besides the traditional march in Barcelona held on the regional holiday of Sept. 11, a pro-independence grass roots group has organized a human chain stretching for over 400 kilometers north and south across the economically powerful northeastern region. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

MADRID (AP) — Spain's prime minister has rejected a request by the leader of Catalonia to approve a referendum that would allow the northeastern region to decide whether to secede from the rest of the country.

In a written reply, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told Artur Mas, leader of the economically powerful region, "the ties that bind us together cannot be undone without enormous cost" and that the two politicians should hold talks instead.

Rajoy's answer Saturday officially rebuffs the pro-separatist request Mas made in July. Spain's constitution says only the central government can call a referendum.

More than 1 million people showed support for Catalan independence on Wednesday by joining hands to form a 400-kilometer (250-mile) human chain across the region.

Polls indicate about half of Catalonia's 7.5 million inhabitants favor independence.