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Dec 28, 2011, 01.06 AM IST | Source: Reuters

Clinton concerned over democracy in Hungary-report

HUNGARY-USA:Clinton concerned over democracy in Hungary-report

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has voiced concerns over democratic freedom in Hungary in a letter to the prime minister, a local media said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Viktor Orban confirmed he had received a letter from Clinton, but did not disclose its contents.

Orban's centre-right party scored a landslide victory in a 2010 election. Orban's government went on to pass measures critics say weaken institutions such as the Constitutional Court and meddle with press freedom.

The letter "put in writing the things she had articulated verbally before", spokesman Peter Szijjarto told the national news agency MTI on Tuesday. "The prime minister will, naturally, respond to the letter in due course."

Clinton visited Budapest in June to hold talks with Orban and told a subsequent news conference that she was concerned about democratic freedoms in Hungary, where she said essential checks and balances must be strengthened.

Bradley Hurst, press attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, did not comment on the existence of the letter, citing embassy policy about State Department communication.

"On occasion we have raised concerns regarding the protection of checks and balances (on government power) and the protection of individual liberties," Hurst said, noting Clinton's public remarks during her visit to Hungary.

The Nepszabadsag newspaper reported on its website nol.hu that Clinton had renewed her worries in the letter, which it said had been received on December 23.

Orban's government has taken advantage of its huge majority in parliament to rewrite Hungary's constitution and pass a series of laws that would require a two-thirds majority to be changed.

Two such laws passed, one on the central bank and one on financial stability, have caused concern in Europe and even led European Commission President Jose Barroso to ask Orban to withdraw them.

Orban rejected that request last week, saying Brussels could not dictate policy to Budapest.

On Friday thousands of Hungarians held a rally against Orban's government and opposition lawmakers chained themselves to barriers outside parliament to protest several laws, including one that changes the electoral system in a way that critics contend favour Orban's Fidesz party.

(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)

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