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Hungarian President Urges End to 'Moral Crisis'


Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom has appealed to the country's prime minister to apologize for creating what he calls a "moral crisis" in Hungary. The president's comments came as thousands of angry protesters attempted to storm the national television station, demanding the prime minister's resignation.

The Hungarian television station was the scene as scores of protesters smashed windows and hurled bottles and cobblestones at riot police. Flagstones were used to attack the television building.

Security forces fired tear gas to keep the demonstrators out of the facility. Part of the building and nearby cars were set on fire.

The anti-government demonstrations were sparked by a leaked tape, aired on Hungarian radio, in which Prime Minister Gyurcsany can be heard as telling a closed party meeting that his Socialist-led government had lied to voters to win re-election in April.

Monday's protest was Hungary's worst clash between police and demonstrators since the fall of Communism, in 1989. Some demonstrators shouted slogans from Hungary's crushed revolution against Soviet domination, in October 1956. Earlier, an estimated 10,000 people gathered in front of the parliament building. And, there were protests in several other towns across the country.

Before the election, the government insisted Hungary's economy was not as bad as it seemed and that a budget deficit in 2006 would be around 4.7 percent. But, after he was re-elected, Mr. Gyurcsany admitted that - even with dramatic spending cuts and more taxes - the gap would rise to more than 10 percent of GDP.

That is the highest budget deficit within the European Union and has raised doubts about Hungary's prospects to adopt the Euro currency in the foreseeable future. As unrest spread, Monday, Hungarian state-run television aired a speech of President Laszlo Solyom in which he urged the prime minister to apologize.

He says Prime Minister Gyurcsany's admissions caused a moral crisis in Hungary. He called the prime minister "personally responsible" for the situation. The president said Mr. Gyurcsany should apologize for what he calls "toying with democracy" and "knowingly" jeopardizing people's faith in democracy.

Although the Socialist Party has said it still supports the prime minister, the political row could not have come at a worse time, for the government. There are municipal elections on October 1 and the government hopes for public support to tackle the budget deficit with unprecedented social and economic reforms.

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