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Page last updated at 22:51 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 23:51 UK

Italian PM defends his reputation

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Silvio Berlusconi denies any wrongdoing

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has again dismissed criticism of his private life following a series of sex allegations.

In his strongest comments yet, he said he had nothing to apologise for and no skeletons in his cupboard.

Mr Berlusconi also said that no-one could blackmail him.

Recent allegations have included a claim that he slept with an escort at his main residence in Rome, though he denies ever having paid for sex.

Mr Berlusconi was speaking at a pre-holiday news conference in Rome.

If there is something I adore, it's women
Silvio Berlusconi

Referring to a magazine interview given by his daughter, Barbara, in which she appeared to mildly rebuke him over his actions, Mr Berlusconi said her quotes had been taken out of context.

He said he had nothing to be sorry about in his private life and nothing to apologise to his family for.

Mr Berlusconi denied reports in some foreign newspapers that he hated women.

"If there is something I adore, it's women," the 72-year-old prime minister declared.

Reaction

The BBC's Rome correspondent, Duncan Kennedy, says Mr Berlusconi's protestations of innocence have met a mixed response.

Left-of-centre politicians and newspapers say he has made the country a laughing stock because of what they say is his disgraceful behaviour.

Mr Berlusconi's supporters say the allegations are either exaggerated or simply wrong.

It is 14 months since the prime minister came back to power, our correspondent says, and he has achieved many of his, often controversial, election promises.

But since May, his political agenda has been sidetracked by the personal allegations and that may threaten the future direction of his government.

Mr Berlusconi has never been a politician towards whom people are indifferent, our correspondent adds.

Whether it is regarding politics or his private life, he continues to arouse feelings of scorn or satisfaction among Italians.



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