Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Saturday, 30 May 2009 15:41 UK

Berlusconi wins party photos ban

Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi said the images intruded on his guests' privacy

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has succeeded in blocking the publication of potentially embarrassing photos of young women at his new year's party.

Mr Berlusconi, 72, is under pressure to explain his relationship with 18-year-old Noemi Letizia, who was among the guests. He denies having an affair.

Local media say some of the photographs show young women in bikinis or topless.

Prosecutors ordered the seizure of about 700 images in total, taken at the new year's party and other occasions.

The pictures were taken from outside Mr Berlusconi's villa on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia by a Sardinian photographer, Antonello Zappadu, using a powerful lens.

In a letter to the Italian data protection agency, Mr Berlusconi complained that the photographer had intruded on his guests' privacy.

Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Serra described some of the images as showing "bikini-clad or topless girls" relaxing in the gardens or taking showers.

Noemi Letizia
Ms Letizia was among the guests at Mr Berlusconi's last new year's party

In a letter published in the paper, Mr Zappadu denied violating the guests' privacy, saying his pictures were taken while they were outside in the villa's grounds.

Mr Berlusconi's personal life has been under scrutiny since 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 April and given her an expensive necklace.

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

Mr Berlusconi has confirmed that Ms Letizia, an aspiring model, has stayed at his villa in Sardinia and attended a new year's party there but has denied any improper relationship with her.

Speaking to reporters in Rome on Thursday, he said he would resign if he was caught lying about it.

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

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