- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 8, 2009

ROME (AP) | Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made one of his strongest denials yet in a scandal over purported relationships with young women, insisting on Friday he has nothing to hide and nothing for which to apologize.

Mr. Berlusconi responded to apparent criticism from his daughter Barbara, who said in an interview with Vanity Fair this week that politicians cannot afford to differentiate between their public and private spheres and should work to improve moral values.

During a press conference at his office, Mr. Berlusconi contended his daughter’s comments were taken out of context and not meant as criticism.

“Her dad has nothing to be sorry about in his private life and nothing to apologize for, even to his family members,” Mr. Berlusconi said. “The premier has no skeletons in his closet and cannot be blackmailed by anybody.”

His daughter “loves him a lot,” Mr. Berlusconi told reporters, referring to himself in the third person, according to Agence France-Presse.

The 72-year-old conservative prime minister has been entangled in scandal for months over his purported encounters with women, including a call girl who said she spent the night with him in his Rome residence.

Recordings of purported conversations between Mr. Berlusconi and the prostitute were released by the left-leaning magazine L’Espresso on its Web site.

Mr. Berlusconi’s lawyer has disputed the veracity of the tapes, which include intimate details. Mr. Berlusconi has denied he ever paid for sex, and says the allegations are a smear campaign by left-leaning media.

It was Mr. Berlusconi’s attendance at the 18th birthday party of aspiring model Noemi Letizia that prompted his second wife, Veronica Lario, to begin divorce proceedings.

Mr. Berlusconi has denied having had a romantic relationship with the teenager.

But he has also joked that he is “no saint.”

In Friday’s remarks, Mr. Berlusconi made another crack about his fondness for females to respond to contentions that his attitude demeans women.

“Foreign newspapers … continue to say that I hate women and that I am against women,” he said. “If there is something I adore it’s women, I believe that is widely known.”

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