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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
PM's warning to Hungary rioters
Hungarian firefighters examine wrecks of burned cars in front of the national TV headquarters
Violent clashes erupted outside the state TV station offices

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has warned he will crack down on any repeat of Monday night's violent protests in Budapest.

Mr Gyurcsany said the protests, in which dozens of people were hurt, were Hungary's "longest and darkest night" since the end of communism in 1989.

The violence erupted at the state TV building following a largely peaceful rally calling on Mr Gyurcsany to quit.

In a leaked tape, Mr Gyurcsany admitted his government had lied to the public.

His comments, which were recorded just after a general election in April, have prompted calls for his resignation from opposition parties.

But his own Socialist party, and the junior party in the governing coalition, have stood behind the prime minister.

Protesters storm station

Mr Gyurcsany has thus far withstood pressure to leave office and had vowed to push forward with tough economic reforms.

"I had spent three minutes on Sunday night thinking about whether I should step down or whether I had a reason to step down, and the conclusion I came to is that absolutely not," he told Reuters news agency.

File photo of Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, 2005
We lied morning, noon and night
Ferenc Gyurcsany
excerpt from leaked tape

The prime minister also warned he would deal firmly with any further violent protests.

He said he had told police "to use all means to restore order", according to the national news agency MTI.

However hundreds of protesters gathered outside parliament on Tuesday, carrying a symbolic coffin with a placard that read: "We will bury the government of Gyurcsany."

The trouble began on Monday night, when a group of protesters left a largely peaceful demonstration near parliament and went to TV headquarters.

According to reports, they wanted a petition to be read out on air, and when refused, attacked the building.

Riot police sent to contain the protest came under assault from protesters throwing cobblestones and bottles and setting cars alight.

Police were forced to withdraw before returning to expel the protesters. Officials said 150 people had been injured - 102 of them police officers.

There were dramatic scenes after night fell

"Nothing like this has happened since 1956," one young protester told Reuters news agency, referring to Hungary's failed uprising against Soviet rule in October 1956.

Mr Gyurcsany's comments which sparked the protests were heard in a tape of a meeting he held with his MPs a few weeks after April's election, and leaked to media on Sunday.

In excerpts broadcast on state radio, Mr Gyurcsany candidly admitted his government had accomplished "nothing" and had been lying for "the last year and a half to two years".

"We lied morning, noon and night," he said in a speech punctuated by obscenities.

Fiscal hole

Mr Gyurcsany won the elections on a platform of tax cuts, but has since proposed tax increases to deal with a huge budget deficit

Mr Gyurcsany should resign... He and his "friends" should leave this country for good
Protester, Budapest

Protests had already been planned this week over the austerity measures.

The leaked revelations were, for some of the protesters, the straw which broke the camel's back, the BBC's Nick Thorpe says.

The European Commission - the executive arm of the EU - on Tuesday urged the Budapest government to press on with its efforts to mend public finances.

Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres told reporters in Brussels that it was in the interests of Hungary that the economic situation should be "brought to relatively sustainable levels".

Local elections are scheduled in two weeks' time and the Socialists and their liberal coalition allies are trailing the conservative opposition party Fidesz in the polls.

Watch an interview with Ferenc Gyurcsany

Profile: Ferenc Gyurcsany
19 Sep 06 |  Europe
Caught on tape: Infamous gaffes
19 Sep 06 |  Europe
In pictures: Budapest clashes
19 Sep 06 |  In Pictures
Timeline: Hungary
09 Sep 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Hungary
14 Jun 06 |  Country profiles

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