The Latest: Prime minister won't negotiate on referendum

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont delivers a speech during an event promoting the start of the campaigning for the ballot in Tarragona, about 100 kilometres south of Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Tension is mounting between Catalan and Spain's national leaders as Catalonia's president is set to open the "yes" campaign for a planned referendum on seceding from Spain Thursday. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

MADRID - The Latest on the independence bid for Spain's northeastern Catalonia region (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

A Spanish government spokesman says that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy can't discuss with Catalan authorities what could make him agree to a referendum on the region's secession because the law simply doesn't allow it.

Officials in Catalonia and the northeastern region's capital, Barcelona, asked in a letter released on Friday for fresh dialogue on holding the vote with the government's permission.

"The Prime Minister can't make something illegal into something legal," said Inigo Mendez de Vigo, who is Minister of Culture and the spokesman for Rajoy's cabinet, when asked about the letter.

The central government says that a constitutional reform through a strong majority in the national parliament is the only avenue for a legal referendum.

Separatist politicians have vowed to hold the vote on Oct. 1 despite a ban by the country's courts.

___

1:55 p.m.

Spain's finance minister says the central government has decided to take over payments of essential services in the northeastern region of Catalonia amid a controversial bid by politicians there to hold an independence referendum.

Cristobal Montoro says the government is also giving officials in Catalonia 48 hours to comply with a new system to scrutinize public payments by Catalonia to ensure that no public funds are being used on the illegal vote.

Montoro's ministry ordered regional authorities back in July to send weekly spending reports instead of monthly reports. But on Thursday, Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, who is in charge of economic affairs, said he would stop providing them because the scrutiny was politically motivated.

The extraordinary measures were justified, Montoro said, for the sake of budgetary stability in Catalonia and to defend Spain's legal order.

___

10:30 a.m.

Catalan officials are addressing a letter to Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy calling for negotiations to agree on a referendum on the northeastern region's independence.

Spanish officials have rejected the unilateral vote planned for Oct. 1. Rajoy has said that a constitutional reform through a strong majority in the national parliament is the only avenue for a legal referendum.

Separatist politicians launched the Yes campaign on Thursday as they press ahead with the vote despite a ban by the country's courts and a criminal investigation into three out of four Catalan mayors actively supporting it.

In the letter, President Carles Puigdemont and Barcelona mayor Ada Colau also say that Spain has launched "an offensive of repression without precedent."

The letter says a copy is being sent to King Felipe VI.


This image released by Lionsgate shows Julia Roberts, left, and Owen Wilson in a scene from "Wonder."
MOVIE REVIEW: 'Wonder' is a sweetly sincere message movie
  OPINION It's hard for us cynical souls to walk into a movie advertised with the tagline "Choose kindness" and not shudder in trepidation. What sentimental hooey is this? What new hellish circle of cheese

Top News