Rubber bullets at Hungary protest


Police in Hungary have fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters during commemorations of the 1956 uprising against Soviet rule.

Clashes took place with about 1,000 demonstrators close to parliament where officials had earlier laid flowers on the 50th anniversary of the revolt. Some protesters were in a tank they had taken from an uprising exhibition. Hungary has seen bitter political division since PM Ferenc Gyurcsány admitted he lied to win re-election. Some veterans of the uprising refused to shake hands with him. The latest clashes have been in Elizabeth and Deák squares, about 2 kilometers from parliament. The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest said long lines of riot police were moving down streets and firing rubber bullets into crowds. BBC's correspondent said he saw one man being carried away with what looked like a head wound from a rubber bullet.

The disturbances were taking place on the edge of a much bigger, peaceful demonstration, he said, adding that the picture in Budapest was confusing with several groups marching through the city to events at different locations. It was difficult to tell whether the groups carrying Hungarian flags were marking 1956 or taking part in anti-government protests, our correspondent said. In one incident police rushed an unarmed tank - similar to one used by the Soviets to quash the rebellion - that was being driven among the protesters. At least one man was pulled from the tank. The possibility of clashes had prompted the government to close Kossuth square outside parliament and urge the media to stay away. Budapest's police chief said protest organizers had broken an agreement with them and there was a "considerable quantity" of knives and other weapons. The local MTI news agency said tear gas was also used at Budapest's Western Railway Station and that water cannon was used at another location. The agency said the protesters had been throwing rocks and pieces of metal at security forces. Protesters have been present outside parliament for weeks, but were forced back in the early hours of Monday to make way for the official ceremonies.

President László Sólyom has appealed for national unity. Monday's events began with dignitaries taking turns to place white roses at the black marble monument to the uprising outside parliament, before heading inside to adopt a declaration of freedom. There was also to be a ceremony of remembrance at the statue of Imre Nagy, who was the reformist prime minister at the time. The main opposition Fidesz party said it was boycotting official anniversary events at which Prime Minister Gyurcsány is speaking, and holding its own rally close to the state radio building, the scene of bitter fighting in 1956. Gyurcsány caused political uproar recently when he admitted he had lied to the public about the economy. But he denied any comparison between Monday's protests and their 1956 counterparts. "The majority of Hungarians believe that parliamentary democracy is the most suited to express people's will and to create law and give a program to a free Hungary," he said. (BBC News)

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