Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy has formally asked Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to clarify whether independence has been declared, saying that is needed before he can decide what steps to take.
In a veiled threat, Mr Rajoy said clarity was required by the constitutional article that would allow Spain to intervene and take control of some or all of Catalonia's regional powers.
Mr Rajoy issued the demand on Wednesday following a special Cabinet meeting to respond after Mr Puigdemont said late on Tuesday he would proceed with the secession but would suspend it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.
In a highly anticipated speech, Mr Puigdemont had said the landslide victory in the disputed referendum on October 1 gave his government in the regional capital, Barcelona, the grounds to implement its long-held desire to break century-old ties with Spain.
But he proposed that the regional parliament suspend the effects of the declaration to commence a dialogue and help reduce tension.
The central government in Madrid responded that it did not accept the declaration and did not consider the referendum or its results to be valid.
Spain's deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the Catalan leader "doesn't know where he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go".
She said Mr Puigdemont had put Catalonia "in the greatest level of uncertainty seen yet".