Hungarian premier reacts angrily to opposition press comments

Hungary Prime Minister Ferenc GyurcsanyBudapest  - Hungary's socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany reacted angrily on Tuesday to comments made in an interview in the UK Financial Times newspaper by his arch rival, the centre- right opposition leader Viktor Orban.

Orban accused the Hungarian government of wasting the opportunity to use the 25-billion-dollar rescue loan granted by the International Monetary Fund, the EU and the World Bank last October.

The leader of the centre-right Fidesz party, which is confident of winning next year's general elections, said the money could have been used to fund urgently needed reforms.

"The government makes a lot of noise. But there are no concrete policies and people will suffer for the lack of policies," the FT quoted Orban as saying.

Gyurcsany responded scathingly as he answered listeners questions on a national radio phone-in show on Tuesday.

The prime minister said that the IMF-led loan package was offered strictly to boost the national bank's foreign currency reserves in order that Hungary can meet its day to day financial obligations.

"If the Fidesz president does not know that, then there is a big problem. If he does know, and he is talking nonsense to the Financial Times, then shame on him," Gyurcsany told his listeners.

The socialist prime minister accused Orban of being dishonest for presenting himself abroad as a reformer - an accusation that, in Hungarian politics, is usually fired in the other direction.

Orban's centre-right Fidesz has held a commanding lead in opinion polls since September 2006, when a recording of Gyurcsany acknowledging that his party had lied "day and night" to secure re- election was leaked, sparking violent protests.

The government recently announced what it called the most radical reform package in Hungary since the changeover to democracy two decades ago.

Fidesz has since then refused to recognise the legitimacy of the government, and its members file out of parliament whenever Gyurcsany stands up to speak.

However, recent opinion polls have shown a slight rise in the popularity of the governing Hungarian Socialist Party as it struggles to limit the damage caused by the ongoing financial crisis. dpa

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