Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday gave the Catalan government eight days to drop an independence bid, failing which he would suspend Catalonia's political autonomy and rule the region directly.
His move could deepen the confrontation between Madrid and the northeastern region but also signals a way out of Spain's biggest political crisis since a failed military coup in 1981.
Rajoy would probably call a snap regional election after activating Article 155 of the constitution that would allow him to sack the Catalan regional government.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont issued a symbolic declaration of independence from Spain on Tuesday night but then immediately suspended it and called for negotiations with the Madrid government.
"The cabinet has agreed this morning to formally request the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared the independence of Catalonia, regardless of the deliberate confusion created over its implementation," Rajoy said in a televised address after a cabinet meeting called to consider the government's response.
He later told Spain's parliament the Catalan government had until Monday, Oct. 16 at 0800 GMT to answer. If Puigdemont was to confirm he did declare independence, he would be given an additional three days to rectify it, until Thursday, Oct. 19 at 0800 GMT. Failing this, Article 155 would be triggered.
According to analysts, it is not yet clear if the Catalan government will answer the requirement but it now faces a conundrum.
Puigdemont had been widely expected to unilaterally declare Catalonia's independence on Tuesday after the Catalan government said 90 percent of Catalans had voted for a breakaway in an Oct. 1 referendum.
Central authorities in Madrid had declared the referendum illegal and most opponents of independence boycotted it, reducing turnout to around 43 percent.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team