Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 13:09 UK

Berlusconi model 'faked' romance

Noemi Letizia (right) with her mother (7 June 2009)
Mr Cozzolino said he had not spoken to Noemi Letizia (right) since 7 June

An Italian man says an aspiring model embroiled in a scandal involving Silvio Berlusconi asked him to pose as her boyfriend after she had met the PM.

Domenico Cozzolino said his supposed relationship with Noemi Letizia was organised after the prime minister attended her birthday party in April.

"I believe someone put her up to it," the reality TV contestant, 21, told the magazine, Diva e Donna.

Mr Berlusconi has been under pressure to explain his ties with Ms Letizia.

His wife Veronica Lario has demanded a divorce, saying she could "not remain with a man who consorts with minors".

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 she had stayed at his villa in Sardinia and attended a party there.

'Clear conscience'

In the interview with Diva e Donna, Mr Cozzolino said that Ms Letizia had asked him to pose as her boyfriend "three or four days" after her 18th birthday party.

They wanted to send me away because I know too much
Domenico Cozzolino

"I believe someone put her up to it. The truth is it was all organised," he told the woman's magazine.

Photographs showing Mr Cozzolino and Ms Letizia kissing on the seafront in Naples were published shortly afterwards in Chi magazine, owned by the Berlusconi family's financial holding company, Fininvest.

The 21-year-old said he had not spoken to Ms Letizia since 7 June.

"They wanted to send me away because I know too much," he said, adding that he had "not told the whole truth, just part of it".

Mr Cozzolino said he was not afraid of Ms Letizia's reaction to the revelations.

"It doesn't interest me, my conscience is clear. Certainly, as long as it was a game, but now it is beginning to turn into something else."

A spokesman for Mr Berlusconi declined to comment when asked if the PM had been responsible for organising the relationship.

Last month, the prime minister was forced to deny allegations that he had paid prostitutes to attend parties at his official residences.

He faced further scandal when photos were published of topless women and a naked man at his villa on Sardinia, and also of a celebrity using the prime minister's official jet to fly to the island.

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