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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dozens injured, detained in second night of violence in Budapest

BUDAPEST (AFP) - Fifty-seven people were injured and around 100 detained as protesters demanding the prime minister's resignation clashed with police in the Hungarian capital for a second night, officials said.

Riot police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the demonstrators, who hurled bottles and other objects at the officers and set fire to a police car and several garbage cans in the riots near the governing Socialist Party's headquarters.

Mayor Gabor Demszky told public television Wednesday morning that 57 people were injured. Budapest police chief Peter Gergenyi said 24 of the injured were police, four of whom are in serious condition, and that 98 protestors had been detained.

The clashes came after a peaceful demonstration by more than 10,000 people outside parliament Tuesday evening, who called on Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany to quit after the weekend broadcast of a leaked recording in which he admitted that he had lied about the state of the economy in order to win general elections in April.

The speech first sparked violence before dawn on Tuesday, in which some 150 people were injured in riots after protestors stormed and briefly occupied the landmark building of the state television broadcaster, one block from parliament.

Gyurcsany has steadfastly rejected calls to resign, saying he admitted having lied because he wanted to make a fresh start and usher in a new period of honesty necessary to undertake major reforms to rein in a skyrocketing deficit that threatens economic stability.

"The correct decision is to stay," Gyurcsany told state television Tuesday, rejecting opposition calls for him to resign if he loses local elections scheduled in two weeks' time.

Asked if he would bow to the protesters and roll back his economic reforms, he said: "No, these are my policies."

Gyurcsany said earlier Tuesday that he had ordered police "to use all means" to maintain order.

Conservative opposition leader Viktor Orban demanded that Gyurcsany step down if his Socialist party loses local elections on October 1, and that the economic reform package be withdrawn.

Orban's Fidesz party, which was handed a resounding defeat in the April legislative vote, has a double-digit lead now against the Socialists, who have been weakened by austerity measures including tax increases, mass public sector layoffs and cuts in energy price subsidies.

Hungary is struggling to rein in the highest public deficit in the
European Union, forecast to be more than 10.0 percent of gross domestic product this year, even if the austerity package is fully executed.
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