Prime minister challenges CiU to present referendum bill

"Don't insist that I do it; I am not a member of this Senate," Rajoy tells nationalist parties

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday challenged Catalan nationalist parties in Congress to present a constitutional reform bill before lawmakers if they insist on holding a sovereignty vote next year.

"I don't agree with self-determination, but if they want it, they should propose the issue in parliament," said the prime minister during a tense question-and-answer session in the Senate.

He was responding to Josep Lluis Cleríes, the spokesman for the Catalan nationalist CiU bloc, who suggested that Rajoy lacked the political will to introduce reforms so that the region can legally hold its vote. "We agree it has to be legal, we are in parliament, and this is where we construct and change laws that go to serve the people and regions," he said.

However, Rajoy said that the "laws have different instruments to propose reforms."

"Don't insist that I do it; I am not a member of this Senate," Rajoy said in response.

The prime minister said that he has tried to hold a dialogue with Artur Mas, the CiU regional premier, but the Catalan leader "has not budged" from his position in the interests of "mutual understanding."

The government has filed a challenge to the Catalan sovereignty declaration with the Constitutional Court.

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