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Spain's highest court halts a proposed referendum on Basque independence

Spain's highest court has agreed to study a government appeal of a referendum proposed by the Basque region that is seen as a veiled push toward independence. The Constitutional Court's decision Thursday automatically suspends preparations for the non-binding vote for at least five months while the tribunal deliberates. Lawyers acting on behalf of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his government filed the appeal with the court after the Basque regional government published a plan to hold the referendum Oct. 25. The Basque government insists the vote is legal and argues it is a nonbinding consultation to seek the views of Basque residents on separatist group ETA's armed conflict and the region's future political status.