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A man waves an "Estelada", Catalan separatist flag, outside the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona, Spain, May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo


MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's government said on Friday it would appeal against a motion by Catalonia to press on with its independence drive, as tensions rise ahead of talks between new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and regional leader Quim Torra.

Catalonia's secessionist drive is one of the thorniest issues facing Sanchez after he toppled centre-right premier Mariano Rajoy on June 1 in a vote of no-confidence.

The Catalan parliament on Thursday backed a motion proposed by a small anti-capitalist party, the CUP, that reiterates "political targets" first set out by the secessionists in 2015 the envisages an independent Catalonia.

"The (Spanish) government will challenge before the Constitutional Court the motion approved yesterday by the Catalan parliament," spokeswoman Isabel Celaa told a news conference in Madrid.

Catalonia unilaterally declared independence last October, prompting Rajoy to impose direct rule from Madrid and to call a regional election.

After pro-independence parties once again won a parliamentary majority in the election, Torra said Catalonia's secessionist bid would continue under the new administration.

Sanchez, while opposed to any moves towards Catalan independence, has adopted a more conciliatory approach to the problem than his predecessor, calling for dialogue and lifting financial controls on the region.

Celaa said she was optimistic about the planned talks next week between Sanchez and Torra.

"We have high hopes that the meeting next Monday will go very well," said Celaa, adding that investments and the normalisation of political dialogue would be among the issues discussed.

A number of members of the previous Catalan administration are awaiting trial for their part in last year's independence drive, while former leader Carles Puigdemont is awaiting the outcome of an extradition request in Germany.

(Reporting By Jesús Aguado and Rodrigo de Miguel; Editing by Paul Day and Gareth Jones)

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