Catalonia government sworn in, ending Madrid's direct rule

German prosecutors formally applied for the extradition of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Friday

Nationalists regained control of Catalonia's regional government on Saturday as a new cabinet was sworn in, automatically ending just over seven months of direct rule from Madrid by Spain's central government.

This will be a major challenge for the new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The central government last month recognised the powers of newly-elected Catalan president Quim Torra but refused to ratify his choice of councillors because four of them face charges linked to the failed independence drive, calling their nomination "a new provocation".

Mr Sánchez is opposed to another independence referendum in Catalonia, but wants talks on the situation in the prosperous region.

The new ministers will take up their posts on Saturday, the regional government announced. Spain's Constitution calls the nation "indivisible" and says national sovereignty resides in the Madrid-based parliament.

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But they have very different targets, with Spain's Socialists, who had backed Rajoy's Catalonia policy, opposing independence. His government will depend on the support of the far-left Podemos (We Can) party and of a motley crew of regional parties and Catalan secessionists to get anything done in government.

Sanchez, who secured the backing of an unlikely alliance of mainstream Socialists, hard-leftists and Catalan and Basque nationalists to bring down Rajoy, has the slimmest parliamentary majority since the birth of Spanish democracy in 1975.

Socialists only hold 84 seats in the 350-member assembly, which could make any bold move on the economic or political front - including on Catalonia - hard. Emotional contributions were also made to the region's leader in exile, Carles Puigdemont, and other jailed pro-independence figures.

Separatists won a December election and chose fervent separatist Quim Torra as regional chief.

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