The Latest: Official: Catalan secessionists may join vote

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BARCELONA, Spain — The Latest on the Spain-Catalonia political crisis (all times local):

11:20 a.m.

The ousted vice president of Catalonia’s rebellious government has left open the possibility that secessionist parties will participate in a regional election called by Spain’s central government.

Oriol Junqueras wrote in an open letter published Sunday in Catalan newspaper El Punt-Avui that separatist forces must “continue forward . without ever renouncing the ballot boxes.”

Junqueras, regional president Carles Puigdemont and the rest of their top government officials were fired by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday a day after Catalonia’s Parliament voted in favor of a declaration of independence for the northeastern region.

Rajoy also announced that he was dissolving the Catalan Parliament and called regional elections for December 21 in hopes that pro-union parties can take back the majority in the region’s legislative chamber.

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10:30 a.m.

Hundreds of people opposing Catalan independence have begun gathering in central Barcelona before what is expected to be a major demonstration in favor of Spain’s unity.

The protesters, waving Spanish flags, were to march later in the day through part of the city center. The demonstration comes two days after Catalonia’s separatist lawmakers voted to secede from Spain. The move was met by the central government in Madrid triggering unprecedented constitutional powers to take control of the region’s affairs.

Organizers of Sunday’s march say its goal is to defend Spain’s unity and reject “an unprecedented attack in the history of democracy.” Their slogan will be “We are all Catalonia. Common sense for coexistence!” Members of the central government and main pro-union parties are expected to join.

Three weeks ago, the same group organized a mass rally that brought hundreds of thousands onto Barcelona’s streets.

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10:20 a.m.

A Belgian government official says it would be “not unrealistic” for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to ask for asylum and warns it would create serious diplomatic difficulties with fellow European Union member state Spain.

Asylum State Secretary Theo Francken tweeted early Sunday that “it is possible to ask for asylum as an EU subject” in Belgium. Francken stressed that Belgium wasn’t seeking such a scenario, saying “I’m not rolling out the welcome mat.”

Francken added that if such a request would come in, “we’d enter a difficult diplomatic situation with the Spanish authorities. That is evident.”

There has been no indication that Puigdemont has requested asylum after Spain took control of Catalonia’s government and dismissed its leaders, including Puigdemont, after regional lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain.

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8:35 a.m.

Catalonia’s main city Barcelona is bracing for a new day of protests over an independence declaration that led to the regional government’s dismissal by Spain.

Societat Civil Catalan has called for those who oppose Catalan independence to march at noon Sunday (1100 GMT; 7 a.m. EDT).

Organizers say the march’s goal is to defend Spain’s unity and reject “an unprecedented attack in the history of democracy.” Their slogan will be “We are all Catalonia. Common sense for coexistence!” Members of the central government and main pro-union parties are expected to join.

Three weeks ago, the same group organized a mass rally that brought hundreds of thousands onto Barcelona’s streets.

No pro-independence marches were expected Sunday. Catalonia’s ousted leader has called for Catalans to engage in peaceful opposition.

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