Barcelona mayor against Catalan independence declaration

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed her backing for the "unity of Spain" in a phone call with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy amid a threat by Catalan separatists to declare independence, her spokesman said Monday.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is due to address the regional parliament on Tuesday and the Madrid government is anxious it will vote for a unilateral declaration of independence.

Mr Rajoy has not ruled out the "nuclear option" of removing the Catalan government and calling fresh regional elections.

Protests against an independent Catalonia were held across Spain over the weekend with an estimated 350,000 taking to the streets of Barcelona.

Benet Salellas of the separatist Catalan CUP party said: 'It's very clear to me that those who I represent won't accept any other scenario'.

Separatist politicians have said the declaration of independence will take place on Tuesday, although some say the move will be "symbolic".

"We have listened to many people".

Nathalie Loiseau, France's minister for European affairs, warned on Monday that "if there were a declaration of independence it would be unilateral and it wouldn't be recognised".

Spain also sought to reassure global investors concerned about the political situation in the country.

He has also threatened to suspend the region's existing autonomous status.

"This crisis needs to be resolved through dialogue at all levels of Spanish politics", she urged. The latest crisis has raised fears of unrest in Catalonia, a north-eastern region about the size of Belgium that is home to 7.5 million people and accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy.

Caixabank, Spain's number 3 bank, and Banco Sabadell, the number 5, have both moved their head offices out of Catalonia last week following an independence referendum that the Madrid government attempted to block.

The Catalan parliament could declare independence from Spain on Tuesday evening, claiming legitimacy from the "yes" vote that came from the illegal ballot on 1 October.

However, opponents of the referendum say the vote did not show the true will of the region because those who want to stay in Spain mainly boycotted the polls.

Puigdemont hinted in an interview on Sunday that the region would go ahead with the declaration if Madrid continued to refuse dialogue.

The ideal would be not to have to take drastic measures. Police cracked down on the vote, firing rubber bullets and storming crowds to disrupt the voting, leading to hundreds of injuries.

Rajoy was forced to apologize on Friday, but many in Catalan say the crackdown has only fueled their desire for independence.