Spain’s government has filed appeals before the country’s top court to try to halt the powerful northeastern region of Catalonia from staging an independence referendum, the prime minister said Monday.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the Nov. 9 referendum called by Catalan regional leader Artur Mas represented “a grave attack on the rights of all Spaniards,” who under the 1979 Spanish Constitution were the only ones who could vote on issues of sovereignty.

He stressed that the Constitution “was based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish state” and that while the charter could be amended in the future, right now the government’s priority was to defend it. He spoke after a special Cabinet meeting called to discuss the crisis.

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