Madrid and Barcelona clash over control of the Catalonia police force

An armed Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra officer stands guard at Las Ramblas in Barcelona Spain

The Spanish government said on Tuesday regional police will take control of any voting booths before a Catalan referendum on independence this weekend which it deems illegal.

"Today we can affirm that there will be no effective referendum in Catalonia".

At the start of the press conference Mr Trump described the talks as "very productive" and emphasised the historical links between the United States and Spain, which he described as "close allies" and "great friends", pointing out that Spain is the tenth largest investor in the US.

They remain determined to hold the vote, saying the regional assembly in Barcelona will declare independence within 48 hours of a "yes" victory.

The operation was mainly focused on towns in the Lleida region, in western and northern Catalonia, including Oliana, Tàrrega, Alpicat and Almacelles.

Rajoy's government claims the referendum would violate the country's constitution.

Spanish authorities want the names of officials running polling stations at schools and civic buildings, with a view to prosecuting them.

Speaking days after Spanish police arrested 14 Catalan officials, seized nearly 10m ballot papers and chartered ferries to accommodate the thousands of extra police officers who are being sent to Catalonia to stop the referendum, Maza rejected suggestions that the government was being heavy-handed.

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Faced with these actions, the separatist leaders of this wealthy northeastern region of Spain, home to around 7.5 million people, have accused Madrid of "repression".

Rajoy's government says the referendum is illegal under the Spanish constitution.

A Spanish diplomatic source said the government was "aware of this claim that we are losing the battle of communication, but it is more hard to tell the truth than to tell lies".

"But it will not be a referendum", one of the officials said on condition of anonymity.

"I'm not thinking about calling early elections as a result of what we were seeing".

As the date of the referendum nears, tensions are rising. "All the referendum's logistics have been dismantled", the Spanish government's representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, told reporters on Tuesday.

However, a source told AFP news agency that the leader would stay in Spain ahead of the planned referendum two days later.

"No matter how much war-like zeal they demonstrate. they are wasting time, and the (referendum) on October will take place", the Catalan government spokesman said.

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