Spain's King Juan Carlos has defended the country's parliamentary monarchy as a guarantor of national stability.

The monarch told university students in the northern city of Oviedo that the monarchy had contributed to the longest period of stability and prosperity in democratic Spain.

His speech came more than two weeks after separatists in Catalonia burned posters of the king and his wife, Queen Sofia, in the town of Girona, northeast of Barcelona.

The separatists also shouted pro-independence slogans, such as "Catalonians have no king."

Both the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and the opposition Popular Party have defended and backed the monarch.

Outside Catalonia and the Separatist Basque region to the west, Juan Carlos remains extremely popular. Many Spaniards respect him for helping to thwart a rightist military coup in 1981 and strengthening democracy in the country.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.