Catalonia's new leader determined to achieve independence

Newly appointed Catalan president Quim Torra, leaves the parliament after a parliamentary vote session in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, May 14, 2018.

Fervent Catalan secessionist Quim Torra has been sworn in as the Spanish region's new leader, with his demands for an independent Catalonia set to prolong a stand-off with the country's national government.

Mr Torra formally took office at a ceremony in the Catalan capital, Barcelona.

He was elected by the Catalan parliament's secessionist politicians on Monday.

In a sign of the simmering tension, Spain's national government in Madrid, which usually sends a representative to regional government ceremonies, declined to attend the swearing-in.

It said Catalan authorities had tried to dictate which central government officials could be present - a condition that Madrid rejected.

The spat over Catalonia's future has brought Spain's worst political crisis in decades, though its three main political parties stand united against Catalan independence.

Thursday's ceremony was heavy on symbolism, with pointed signals apparently aimed at the central Spanish authorities.

Mr Torra had only the red-and-yellow Catalan flag behind him during the ceremony. The Spanish flag was absent.

Also, in his oath he pledged only to be faithful to the people of Catalonia. He made no reference to upholding the Spanish constitution nor loyalty to Spain's king.

The Spanish government says it cannot grant Catalonia independence, among other reasons, because the constitution says Spain is "indivisible". King Felipe VI has publicly supported the government's stance.

Mr Torra also wore a yellow ribbon in his lapel, symbolising support for separatist leaders being held in Spanish jails over last year's outlawed independence referendum and illegal declaration of a separate Catalan state.

- PA

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