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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 17:01 GMT
Spanish cabinet sacks army chief
Lieutenant-General Jose Mena Aguado
Lt Gen Jose Mena Aguado had been due to retire in March
The Spanish cabinet has sacked the head of the army's land forces, whose comments about sending the army into Catalonia sparked controversy.

Lt Gen Jose Mena Aguado was placed under house arrest after he suggested using the military could be an option if the region got too much autonomy.

On Friday, ministers decided to transfer the general to the army reserve in March, when he will be 64.

He will not return to full duty from his current suspension.

Lt Gen Mena will be replaced by General Pedro Pitarch Bartolome, the head of defence policy at the defence ministry.

Spain is extremely sensitive about military intervention in politics.

In 1981 army rebels stormed into parliament in an unsuccessful bid to reverse the democratic reforms passed after the death of the military dictator, Francisco Franco, in 1975.


After the general's speech to military officers on 6 January, Defence Minister Jose Bono was quick to take action. He ordered the general's house arrest and recommended his dismissal as head of the army's land forces.

Mr Bono also appeared on television and radio to say that Lt Gen Mena's comments were not supported by the armed forces.

A statute on more autonomy for Catalonia is being debated by MPs.

A first reading of the plan, which included giving the affluent region rights to control taxation and change laws passed by parliament, was approved by 197 votes to 146 by the Spanish parliament in November.

But it still has to be amended to comply with Spain's constitution. The issue has divided the ruling Socialist Party and infuriated conservatives, who say it will cause Spain to break up.

Catalan MPs pass autonomy plans
30 Sep 05 |  Europe
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17 Feb 05 |  Europe
Catalan bid for 'sovereignty'
24 Mar 03 |  Europe

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