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Sex row Paraguay leader to stay

24 April 09 21:24 GMT

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo says he will not resign over claims by three women that he fathered children with them while he was a Catholic priest.

Mr Lugo said in a televised address that he would see his mandate through to 2013 regardless of "rumours of instability and conspiracy".

He asked for forgiveness from anyone who was offended by the revelations.

Opposition politicians have seized on the controversy to undermine Mr Lugo, who ran on a campaign of honesty.

Released from vows

"It was not my intention to offend anyone," Mr Lugo said in his televised news conference, after cancelling what was regarded as an important trip to Washington due to start on Friday.

"I don't hesitate to ask for forgiveness in recognising that I failed the church, the country, the citizens, those who put their trust in me," he said.

Mr Lugo came to power last August, ousting the right-wing Colorado party that had governed Paraguay for six decades.

The Pope only released him from his vows of chastity last July, two years after Mr Lugo renounced the priesthood.

This month, three women have come forward claiming that the former Roman Catholic bishop is the father of their children.

Mr Lugo, 57, acknowledges a two-year-old boy born to a former parishioner as his own, but has not commented on the paternity of the others, a 14-month-old boy and a 6-year-old boy.

'Lost credibility'

Calling the cases "private" during the news conference, he told journalists he could not keep answering questions without neglecting his duties as president.

He said he would leave the matter in the hands of the justice system.

A Paraguayan bishop, Rogelio Livieres, had called for Mr Lugo to resign.

On Friday, a senator from a party currently aligned with Mr Lugo's also urged him to step down.

"Your current personal situation has made you lose all credibility," Alfredo Jaeggli said in a letter to the presidency and congress. "I beg you to resign."

Sitting alongside the president were a number of ministers who celebrated achievements from the government's first year in office, but critics claim the scandal continues to paralyse his administration, the BBC's Gary Duffy reports from Asuncion.

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