MADRID Spain's Constitutional Court blocked on Wednesday a resolution by the Catalan parliament to hold an independence referendum next September, in another setback for the region's efforts to break away from Madrid's rule.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government had asked the court to stall any separatist push by Catalonia, a wealthy region of northeastern Spain and home to about a sixth of the population.
The court suspended the resolution, approved by the Catalan assembly in October, for five months from now, after which it could be made permanent or lifted.
The court also warned Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont and assembly speaker Carme Forcadell to obey its ruling or face criminal charges.
In August the Constitutional Court annulled a similar Catalan resolution on holding an independence referendum.
Puigdemont has said in the past he will hold a referendum next year with or without Madrid's consent.
Some 48 percent of Catalans supported secession in a poll in July, although that it is below its peak from a few years ago.
(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz, Writing by Amanda Calvo, Editing by Paul Day and Gareth Jones)