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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spanish Parties Reach Government Deal

MADRID -- Conservative leader Jose Maria Aznar is set to become Spain's prime minister next weekend after 13 years of Socialist rule, but Catalan nationalists who hold the balance of power could in theory drop him at any time.

Aznar's investiture debate will take place Friday and Saturday, Congress speaker Federico Trillo announced Monday, allowing him to name a government early next week.

After eight weeks of negotiation, the Catalans ratified Sunday an agreement to back a minority government and guarantee a stable legislature after Aznar's Popular Party fell 20 seats short of an absolute majority in an election March 3.

But Jordi Pujol, president of the wealthy northeastern region and leader of its ruling Convergence and Unity, or CiU, coalition, stopped short of committing himself in writing for the full four years of the legislature, thus making sure that his party's demands stay at the forefront of PP policy-making.

"We haven't [signed this pact] thinking that in one year's time we will break it," Pujol told reporters.

But asked whether this constituted a pledge not to pull out before the next general election, he said: "There is never a guarantee that it will be like this and we can't provide it, just as we could not provide it in the case of the Socialists."

The wily Catalan president is back as Spain's undisputed kingmaker, a position he enjoyed in the previous legislature when his support of the now outgoing Socialist government won him a string of concessions for regional autonomy.

Pujol's 2 1/2 year alliance with the Socialists fell apart last summer when CiU abandoned premier Felipe Gonzalez over court charges that officials engineered a "dirty war" on Basque ETA separatist rebels in the 1980s.

Now Aznar, about to move into the Moncloa presidential complex after two failed attempts, faces the threat of his government collapsing if he doesn't comply with Pujol's demands.

CiU's 16 parliamentary seats, together with the four of the Canary Islands Coalition, ensure the PP a majority of one vote in the 350-seat Congress.