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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Catalan MPs pass autonomy plans
Catalan regional government president Pascual Maragall (left) and Artur Mas, president of the National Catalan Party
Catalan government leader Pascual Maragall (left) applauds the vote
The regional parliament in Barcelona has approved a new statute that could give the wealthy Catalonia region in north-east Spain greater autonomy.

The vote was passed by 120 votes to 15, the conservative Popular Party opposing the plan that would give the Catalan authorities tax-raising powers.

But there were disagreements even within the governing bloc about how much autonomy the region should enjoy.

The plan must still be approved by the national parliament in Madrid.

Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has agreed to support the new statute when it is debated in Madrid. But there is expected to be some opposition.

Critics say that increasing the limited autonomy that the region was given in 1978, after the death of the General Francisco Franco, will encourage other regions to press for more powers - especially in the Basque Country.

The militant Basque separatists of Eta have been waging a violent campaign since the 1960s.

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