US slaps entry ban on unnamed 'corrupt' Hungary officials

Budapest (AFP) - The United States has issued entry bans to several Hungarian government officials suspected of corruption, a top US diplomat said Friday in a move likely to further strain bi-lateral relations.

"The decision by the State Department was made on the basis of credible information that those individuals -- less than 10 -- were or are either engaging in or benefitting from corruption," Andre Goodfriend, the US embassy's charge d'affairs, told journalists.

"These individuals, government officials or former government officials, or persons connected with such officials, are barred from entering the US," he said.

Goodfriend refused to reveal the identities of the individuals citing US privacy laws.

The measure is seen in Budapest as a rebuke to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who since taking office in 2010 has regularly clashed with both the EU and the US over charges he is taking Hungary down an authoritarian path.

US President Barack Obama last month included Hungary in a list of countries trying to muzzle civil society groups.

Goodfriend said the entry bans did not amount to sanctions.

"These are about visa elegibility. We have advised the people involved not to travel to the US as they wouldn't be permitted entry," he said.

Budapest said Friday it had summoned Goodfriend to the foreign ministry to discuss the matter.