New Catalan cabinet takes office as Spanish PM sworn in

President Quim Torra's new cabinet regains control of the region after months of direct rule

Catalonia's government will be restored as early as Saturday - bringing to an end a seven-month hiatus imposed by Madrid.

But they have very different targets, with Spain's Socialists, who had backed Rajoy's Catalonia policy, opposing independence.

The new cabinet, led by Torra, a close aide to former Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont, took over on the same day that Sanchez was officially sworn in as new Spanish Prime Minister.

Sanchez, whom parliament backed as new prime minister on Friday as it kicked Rajoy out in an unlikely alliance of mainstream Socialists, hard-leftists and Catalan and Basque nationalists, will have a very slim majority in parliament.

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Mr Torra said at the swearing-in ceremony that his government was committed to advancing towards an independent Catalan state in the form of a republic.

Madrid fired Catalonia's government and took control of the running of the region after an illegal and unsuccessful declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament in October.

Spain's central government last month recognised the powers of newly-elected Catalan president Torra but refused to ratify his first choice of councillors because four of them face charges linked to the failed independence drive.

An empty chair with a yellow ribbon stood in the chamber to represent Catalan separatists who are in jail over their role in last autumn's independence push and those, like ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled overseas.

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Sanchez himself called Torra "the Spanish Le Pen" in aligning him with the most extreme elements of the European far-right.

Separatists won a December election and chose fervent separatist Quim Torra as regional chief.

Puigdemont is fighting extradition from Germany to Spain where he is sought on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds.

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