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Hungarians to Keep Pressing for Leader's Ouster

September 21, 2006|From Times Wire Services

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Thousands of protesters outside the parliament vowed Wednesday to keep up pressure on the prime minister to resign over a leaked recording of him acknowledging that his government lied about the economy to win reelection.

Budapest has been on edge since protests Monday and Tuesday turned violent in the most serious disturbances since a 1956 uprising against Soviet occupiers.

"We will come back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after. As long as we have to. Until he's gone," Budapest resident Tibor Kozma said outside the parliament in Kossuth Square.

The demonstrators' numbers had swelled to about 15,000 by late evening, but Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany stood his ground and said his government intended to press ahead with economic reforms.

A much smaller group of protesters marched to the nearby headquarters of state television, demanding to be allowed to broadcast their complaints after police used tear gas and water cannons to repel dozens who stormed the building.

At least two cars were set on fire outside the facility, and protesters continued to charge the building and throw rocks at police inside. A stone memorial to Soviet troops was vandalized.

Violent outbursts during the protests have left about 140 officers injured, including 38 Wednesday, and 137 people are in custody, said Arpad Szabadfi, deputy chief of national police. Dozens of demonstrators also have been hurt, officials said.

The calls for Gyurcsany's resignation came after leaks of his taped comments at a closed-door meeting in May, weeks after his government won reelection.

"We screwed up. Not a little, a lot," Gyurcsany was heard saying. "No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have.

"I almost died when for a year and a half we had to pretend we were governing."

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