Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Ex-model to speak for Berlusconi

Mara Carfagna
Some have dismissed Ms Carfagna as a lightweight

A glamour model-turned cabinet minister is to be named by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as government spokeswoman, she has said.

Mara Carfagna, 32, praised the PM for "favouring the young by giving them important responsibilities".

Mr Berlusconi has long been a fan of Ms Carfagna, who used to be a showgirl on his TV network.

"If I was not already married I would have married her immediately," he joked in 2007, angering his wife Veronica.

Mrs Berlusconi made her chagrin very public, after which he apologised for "wounding" her dignity, in a letter to La Reppubblica.

Ms Carfagna, who was made equal opportunities minister earlier this year, said: "The time-frame and exact details have yet to be confirmed but the intention is to make me government spokeswoman."

Critics have dismissed her as a lightweight - she says her main hobby is "collecting pens" - and have questioned her suitability to be equal opportunities minister after a career as a topless model.

But she is suing an Italian comedienne who joked she had earned her cabinet position by giving sexual favours to Mr Berlusconi.

And she insists: "The right has been more courageous [than the left] in trusting the young and women with important roles. It is not written anywhere that women have to make do with co-ordinating feminist movements."

Ms Carfagna recently released a book in which she listed her right-wing female role models, including former British leader Margaret Thatcher, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarah Palin, the US vice-presidential hopeful.

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