January 9, 2016 / 4:44 PM / 2 years ago

Catalonia's acting head Mas says will step down as pro-independence leader

MADRID, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Catalonia's acting head Artur Mas said on Saturday he would step down as the pro-independence leader of the Spanish region in order to avoid new regional elections.

"I am going to step to one side. I will not offer myself as candidate for (the pro-independence coalition) Junts pel Si for my reelection as president of Catalonia," Mas told a news conference in Barcelona.

Mas, in power since 2010, said he backed the mayor of the Catalan region of Girona, Carles Puigdemont, as his replacement candidate.

Catalonia has been unable to form a government since an election in September due to disagreements between the pro-independence parties who together gained a majority. If a new candidate had not been chosen before Jan. 11, new regional elections would have been called automatically.

Reporting by Angus Berwick; Editing by Ana Vicario

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