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Page last updated at 18:20 GMT, Sunday, 3 May 2009 19:20 UK

Berlusconi's wife to divorce him

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Ms Lario is the PM's second wife

The wife of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has confirmed that she will file for divorce.

Veronica Lario reportedly said she could not be with a man who "consorted with minors" after her husband attended a female friend's 18th birthday party.

She had also clashed with her husband over his party's plan to choose certain female election candidates.

The 72-year-old billionaire prime minister said it was a personal matter that saddened him, without elaborating.

Ms Lario is Mr Berlusconi's second wife and a former actress. The couple, who have been married for 19 years, have three children, all in their 20s.

'Shameless rubbish'

La Repubblica, a leading Italian newspaper, said Ms Lario's decision came after reading about the 18th birthday party in Naples.

"That's enough, I cannot remain with a man who consorts with minors", she was quoted as saying.

Another newspaper, La Stampa, quoted Ms Lario as saying she had been "forced to take this step".

What's happening today [in Italy] behind a front of bodily curves and female beauty is grave
Veronica Lario

"This really surprised me, because he never came to any 18th birthday party for his children, despite being invited," the paper quoted her as saying earlier.

Mr Berlusconi was reported to have bought the woman a golden necklace studded with diamonds as a present.

Following his wife's reaction, Mr Berlusconi was quoted as saying he was sorry his wife "had let herself be fooled by left-wing newspapers".

Relations with her husband were already said to be frayed after Ms Lario had criticised her husband's choice of young and attractive female candidates with little political experience to represent his Freedom Party in the forthcoming European elections.

In an e-mail to an Italian news agency, she said the plan amounted to "shameless rubbish" being put on "for the entertainment of the emperor".

"What's happening today [in Italy] behind a front of bodily curves and female beauty is grave," she wrote.

Flirting

Mr Berlusconi said his centre-right party was aiming to select female candidates because "we want to renew our political class with people who are cultured and well prepared".

Candidates standing for the party would be unlike the "malodorous and badly dressed people who represent certain parties in parliament", Mr Berlusconi added.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI
Won third term as prime minister in 2008
Fought off a series of corruption and fraud charges
Private fortune estimated at $6.5bn (£4.4bn)
Owner of AC Milan football club

It was later announced that Barbara Matera - an actress, TV announcer and former Miss Italy contestant - was the only one of the candidates to have made the final list.

In a brief statement about the reports of divorce, Mr Berlusconi said: "This is a personal matter that saddens me, that is private, and it seems appropriate not to talk about it."

Mr Berlusconi courted Ms Lario in 1980 after watching her perform topless in a play. They married ten years later.

Two years ago he issued a public apology to his wife for flirting with young starlets, among them Mara Carfagna, who he later appointed as equal opportunities minister.

She said her husband had told the women: "If I wasn't already married I would marry you right away".

In 2003 Berlusconi acknowledged during a press conference rumours linking his wife to a left-wing philosophy professor and mayor, Massimo Cacciari.

Ms Lario has occasionally taken political positions at odds with her husband's, such as her backing for protesters demonstrating against the war in Iraq, which Mr Berlusconi supported.

Mr Berlusconi has two elder children from a previous marriage who now hold senior positions in his media empire.

The Italian prime minister's private fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at $6.5bn (£4.4bn).



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SEE ALSO
Wife's poll rage hits Berlusconi
30 Apr 09 |  Europe
Ex-model to speak for Berlusconi
31 Oct 08 |  Europe
Berlusconi apologises to his wife
31 Jan 07 |  Europe



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