World Bulletin / News Desk
Hungary's combative Prime Minister Viktor Orban deepened his row with George Soros on Friday, saying a prestigious Budapest university founded by the US billionaire was cheating students by breaking rules.
"Cheating is cheating... It doesn't matter if you are a billionaire, you are not above the law," Orban said during an interview on public radio.
The Central European University (CEU), set up in 1991 after the end of communism and part-funded by Soros, said in a statement that it "utterly rejects" Orban's allegations.
"We have been lawful partners in Hungarian higher education for 25 years and any statement to the contrary is false," the university said.
Orban, 53, personally received a Soros grant in the 1980s to study abroad.
The far-right premier has been a leading opponent in the EU of immigration, calling it a threat to Europe's Christian identity.
His anti-Soros quest intensified on Tuesday with the publication of proposed legislation that would tighten rules for foreign-based universities operating in Hungary.
The CEU believes it is the main target of Orban's plan -- something the government denies -- and has said that its existence is under threat.
Orban said Friday that the aim was to stop universities from countries outside of the European Union from being able to cheat students.
He said it followed checks on 28 foreign institutions that uncovered irregularities.
"Several foreign universities are breaking the rules, including the Soros university," he said.
Orban argues that the US-registered CEU enjoys an unfair advantage over local universities because it can award both a Hungarian diploma and an American one.
The proposed new rules would ban the awarding of Hungarian diplomas without an international agreement between national governments.
Institutions must also have operations in their home country.
The future of the CEU, which does not have a US campus, now "depends on talks between the governments of Hungary and the United States," Orban said.
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