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'No one can change my lifestyle', Berlusconi says

Premier 'ill', Catholic weekly claims

29 October, 17:30
'No one can change my lifestyle', Berlusconi says

(ANSA) - Brussels, October 29 - Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday defended himself from suggestions of impropriety over a 17-year-old runaway Moroccan belly dancer he reportedly helped out of a scrape and said his flamboyant lifestyle would continue.

"No one can get me to change my lifestyle, which I'm proud of," the 74-year-old Berlusconi told reporters at a European Union summit here.

"I'm a fun-loving guy, I love life and I love women".

The premier said his famously lavish parties helped him get some much-needed R&R from his political exertions.

"I have a wretched life, pushing on with superhuman effort, working until two thirty in the morning and getting up at seven.

Every now and then I need a relaxing evening".

The Moroccan girl, Ruby, has reportedly told police she attended parties at the premier's Milan residence, one of which allegedly ended in an "erotic ritual" involving several women.

Berlusconi denied this, saying: "I know what happens in my house, I don't have anything to clear up because only people who behave themselves get in". The premier also denied pressuring Milan police to release Ruby when she was arrested in May after being accused of theft by an acquaintance.

"It's all made up, I never influenced anyone," said Berlusconi of the reported phone call from his office allegedly asking officers to make an exception in the case.

Berlusconi said he "knew the rules" and quipped "in Italy, the prime minister has no power".

The centre-left opposition has claimed that if true, the incident would mean that Berlusconi had broken the law might be open to a no-confidence vote.

The premier did admit that he sent a political protegee', former model and dental hygienist Nicole Minetti, to pick Ruby up.

But he said this was to make sure the Moroccan girl "didn't wind up in jail or a shelter, which isn't a nice thing, but that she should be sent to a foster family".

"It was a tragic picture, so I helped her," denying reports that he had earlier given her expensive gifts.

Berlusconi ended his remarks on the subject by telling reporters: "I wish you all serenity, the same serenity I feel when I look into the mirror, an extraordinary serenity".


Catholic weekly La Famiglia Cristiana said on its website Friday that Berlusconi "has a disease, something uncontrollable".

The weekly, which is sold in Italian churches every Sunday, said: "It is incredible that a man in such a position does not have the necessary self-control, and his entourage stands by".
The magazine recalled that Berlusconi's second wife, Veronica Lario, first alleged her husband was "ill" 18 months ago when he attended the 18th birthday party of a Neapolitan aspiring model who said she often flew to spend time with him.
 The case spurred Lario to seek a divorce which is now being settled.
 Famiglia Cristiana was among the fiercest critics of the premier's playboy lifestyle last year, especially after an escort made an audio recording of an encounter at his Rome residence.
 A member of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, Senator Antonio Gentile, said the magazine's latest broadside was "dripping with hate".


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