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Page last updated at 17:10 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 18:10 UK

Berlusconi denies 'spicy' affair

Berlusconi denies affair with model

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has denied having an affair with an underage girl and said he would resign if he was caught lying about it.

Mr Berlusconi said that if someone asked had he had "a spicy or more than spicy" relationship with a minor, his answer would be "absolutely not".

"I have sworn this on the lives of my children," he told reporters in Rome.

Mr Berlusconi, 72, is under pressure to explain his relationship with Noemi Letizia, 18, an aspiring model.

His wife, Veronica Lario, announced earlier this month that she was divorcing him after it was reported that he had attended Ms Letizia's 18th birthday party in Naples and given her an expensive necklace.

To Italians, I want to ask a question: Would you want your children brought up by this man?
Dario Franceschini
Leader, Democratic Party

"I cannot remain with a man who consorts with minors," she said.

Mr Berlusconi said he had only gone to Ms Letizia's party because he happened to be in Naples that day and was an old family friend.

But photographs later emerged of them together at several social events last year, when she was 17. The prime minister also confirmed that she had stayed at his villa in Sardinia and attended a new year's party there.

'Furious'

During a meeting with reporters in Rome on Thursday, Mr Berlusconi repeated previous denials that he had had sex with a minor.

BEING MRS BERLUSCONI
veronica lario
In Feb 2007, Veronica demanded a public apology from her husband for his flirting, to which he replied with a written one

In the 2004 biography Veronica's Tendency she revealed that "Silvio eats lunch while attached to the phone and dinner is the same"
Veronica rarely accompanies her husband on foreign trips
The couple met in 1980, wed 10 years later and have three children in their 20s
Mr Berlusconi has said he was smitten when he first saw the 24-year-old actress on stage

"I have answered the only question that anyone has the right to ask me: 'Prime minister, have you had a, let's say, spicy, or more than spicy, relationship with an underage girl?' The response is: 'Absolutely not,'" he said.

"I am aware that, if this were perjury, I would have to resign a minute later."

The age of consent in Italy is 16, but people under 18 are considered minors.

The comments come a day after the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Dario Franceschini, asked Italians at a European Parliament election rally: "Would you want your children brought up by this man?"

The question provoked a furious response from Mr Berlusconi's children, who have rarely made public statements in the past.

"Angry?" asked Marina, his eldest daughter from his first marriage and chairman of publisher Mondadori, in an interview for Corriere della Sera.

"I am indignant. Furious. No, this is enough. This time, I don't intend to stay silent. My father has always worked a lot, but there has never been a time, a single time, in which I did not have him near when I needed him."

Her younger brother, Mediaset deputy chairman Pier Silvio, demanded to know how Mr Franceschini dared make such a "bad taste" remark.

The premier's three youngest children also said in a statement that they had been "brought up in a family atmosphere that was balanced and full of values".

"Politics should not turn to judging the role of a father, which has nothing to do with politics," Barbara, Eleonora and Luigi said.



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Profile: Silvio Berlusconi
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