Spain's government is mounting a legal challenge to halt the creation of a foreign affairs ministry by the separatist-dominated regional government of Catalonia.

Justice Minister Rafael Catala told reporters Friday that government lawyers will ask the nation's Constitutional Court to order the suspension of the ministry, which is seeking support abroad for Catalonia's independence from Spain.

Catala says Spanish foreign policy can only be set by the central government in Madrid.

Catalonia's regional government last month approved its foreign affairs ministry and named prominent separatist politician Raul Romeva to head it.

The regional parliament with a separatist majority has mounted an 18-month drive to transform Catalonia, in Spain's northeast, into a new Mediterranean nation by 2017.

The central government in Madrid says the effort is unconstitutional and will be stopped.