Hungarian anti-government protesters, police clash

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BUDAPEST, Oct 22 (Reuters) Thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with Hungarian police today and set a water cannon on fire near Budapest's Opera House where Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany was attending a state event.

The demonstrators marched into streets near the Opera from Szabadsag square, where the far-right Hungarian Self-Defence Movement had held a rally, demanding that Gyurcsany step down.

Police used water cannons and fired tear gas at the protesters, witnesses said.

State MTV television showed pictures of riot police before its broadcast from the Opera where an official celebration of the 51st anniversary of the country's 1956 uprising against the Soviet Union was being held.

Demonstrators set a police water cannon on fire before being driven back. They turned over cars and built a barricade, and the index.hu Web site said protesters were also throwing petrol bombs at police.

One year ago hundreds of protesters and police were injured in riots after Gyurcsany admitted in a leaked tape that he lied about the dismal state of the economy before winning elections in May 2006.

Despite weeks of violent protests last year and the prospect of tens of thousands of people attending opposition rallies, Gyurcsany remains firmly in control and is implementing economic reforms.

Reuters AK VP0048

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