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Hungarian Premier appeals for calm on March 15 national holiday

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány yesterday called on political leaders to ensure calm on the country's March 15 national holiday, when secret services said there is a threat of renewed street violence.

„Hungary now needs understanding, moderation and tranquility, not loud words,” Gyurcsány wrote yesterday in an e-mailed statement. „Today, there's a bigger danger than ever that the calm of not just the holiday, but of the country, will be taken away on March 15.”

The government on February 7 warned that extremist radical groups formed a network and are plotting against elected officials, with violence possible on the national holiday, which will commemorate the start of a failed uprising against Hapsburg rule in 1848. The worst street violence in 50 years gripped Budapest last year, when anti-government protesters clashed with police on four occasions in September and November.

On February 13 an unidentified gunman shot 15 rounds from an automatic rifle at Hungary's police headquarters, in what Gyurcsány called an unprecedented example of escalating violence. Police is keeping the country's Parliament building sealed off through the holiday because of the threat of violence from what it calls extremist groups.

A steel cordon has kept people off the square in front of the building since October 23, when world leaders visited to mark Hungary's 1956 anti-Soviet revolt. Police that day used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse rioters around the city. A month earlier, rioters broke into the state television station's headquarters, forcing it off the air after a battle with police that involved torching cars. (Bloomberg)