Two local television stations - hirTV and state run MTV - reported that more than 15,000 demonstrators had gathered in central Budapest on Wednesday night.

Police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators demanding the prime minister's resignation, but the chaos gripping the Hungarian capital appeared to be ebbing after two straight nights of violence.

 

Jozsef Petretei, the justice minister, raised the prospect of imposing a curfew, telling state radio that the government "will take whatever measures are required" to stop rioting.

 

He was separately quoted by hirTV television, as saying "the use of weapons would have been justified by police to stop some of the more violent radicals over the past two days."

The demonstrations began on Sunday after Hungarian media aired a tape of Ferenc Gyurcsany, the prime minster, admitting that he had lied in order to secure his party's re-election.

Hungarian media also said smaller demonstrations were held in half-a-dozen other cities overnight.

Protesters gathering

More than 200 people have been injured and 137 arrested in two previous nights of clashes that police said involved hard-core soccer hooligans who had hijacked peaceful anti-government protests.

Demonstrators, gathering on Wednesday night, displayed a wooden coffin with a picture of Gyurcsany in front of the building to drive home their message.

"We are here to bury Gyurcsany and his government. There is no resurrection for you," reads an inscription on the coffin, adorned with carnations, symbols of Gyurcsany's ruling socialist party, whose popularity is rapidly sinking.

Gyurcsany, caught on tape telling his Socialist party that they "did nothing for four years" and lied to win re-election in April, has rejected calls to step down.

Police said the vast majority of demonstrators have been peaceful, but that between 1,000 and 2,000 had broken off in previous nights to start pitched battles, torching cars and on Monday night storm the state television building and loot it.

The MTI news agency said on Wednesday that many sports stores had sold out of baseball bats, even though baseball is barely played in the EU member.

Some youths were seen swinging bats in confrontations with police earlier this week.

Gyurcsany's credibility has been severely damaged by the violence and his Socialist Party's popularity has plunged ahead of local elections on October 1.