Spain on edge after general threatens revolt

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The Independent Online

The row over the sacking of Spain's top general has intensified as opposition conservatives said the army was deeply concerned about a Catalan plan for self-rule.

The government has attempted to play down"isolated statements" from General Jose Mena, head of Spain's 50,000-strong ground forces. General Mena said in a speech on Friday that the armed forces might step in to halt Catalan plans if they breached the terms of the constitution.

"If these limits are broken ... the armed forces have a mission to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain," the general warned.

The socialist Defence Minister Jose Bono promptly sacked and arrested General Mena at the weekend, and tried yesterday to calm fears that a military revolt was in prospect. Mr Bono insisted General Mena's outburst was "an act of isolated indiscipline that's already been corrected". He added that the military had a duty to be politically neutral.

But the Popular Party leader, Mariano Rajoy, warned yesterday that General Mena represented widespread unease within the military about Catalonia's autonomy demands.

The Spanish parliament is examining an update of Catalonia's statute of autonomy. The draft seeks to describe the region as a "nation", grant sweeping tax and legal advantages, and oblige people to speak Catalan. Many fear such changes could lead to independence for the region and want the charter to be watered down.

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