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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Barcelona star Iniesta calls for dialogue to resolve Catalan issue

'We deserve to live in peace,' Spaniard says following violence in city during independence referendum

Andres Iniesta, right, was born in the central Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha but joined Barcelona when he was 12 years old. Pedro Nunes / Reuters
Andres Iniesta, right, was born in the central Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha but joined Barcelona when he was 12 years old. Pedro Nunes / Reuters

Barcelona Football Club and its captain Andres Iniesta on Thursday urged dialogue to resolve a volatile political crisis over Catalonia's drive for independence.

"I have never before publicly commented on situations that are so complex and involve such diverse emotions, but this situation we are experiencing is exceptional," the 33-year-old midfielder wrote in a Facebook message.

"One thing I know for sure: before we do any more harm, those who are responsible for all this must hold dialogue. Do it for all of us. We deserve to live in peace."

Iniesta was the hero of Spain's 2010 World Cup final victory over the Netherlands, scoring his side's dramatic late goal in a 1-0 win after extra time.

He was born in the central Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha but joined FC Barcelona when he was 12 years old.

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Tensions mounted between Catalonia and Madrid this week after Catalans went ahead with a banned independence referendum that was marred by police violence.

The government has refused calls for mediation in the dispute and Catalan leaders have threatened to declare independence in days.

The football club, one of the biggest in the world and a strong symbol of Catalan identity, called for "dialogue and respect" in a separate statement.

"FC Barcelona, as one of the country's best-known entities, demands that a process of dialogue and negotiation be launched to find political solutions to the situation Catalonia is experiencing," it said.

It added that the process should be carried out "with the utmost respect for the will of the Catalan people to decide their future."

Iniesta's Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique, a Catalan native and another Spain World Cup hero, was jeered by fans at training this week for supporting the independence referendum.

He insisted he would keep playing for Spain until he retires from international football after next year's World Cup.