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'Better to like women than be gay' says Berlusconi

Premier defends 'act of solidarity' in helping 'Ruby'

02 November, 13:05
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi
'Better to like women than be gay' says Berlusconi

(ANSA) - Milan, November 2 - Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday defended himself from allegations of impropriety in his private life and said it was "better to like pretty women than be gay".

Rebutting claims that he abused his office to have a teenage Moroccan belly dancer who went to one of his famously lavish parties released after accusations of theft, the premier said: "I have a gruelling work schedule and if I happen to look pretty girls in the face now and then, well then, it's better to be a fan of pretty women than to be gay".

The premier said people should stop reading newspaper reports of the alleged scandal, saying "you'll see, in the end it'll all come out as a storm of paper".

He described his intervention on behalf of the girl, Karima El Mahroug aka Ruby, as an act of "solidarity that I would have been ashamed not to do, and so I did it, I continually do these things because that's the way I am".

El Mahroug was released after an alleged phone call from the premier which Milan prosecutors are investigating.

The centre-left opposition and Berlusconi's uneasy ally, House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, have said Berlusconi should resign if it is proven he phoned and, as widely claimed, told police El Mahrough was Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's granddaughter.

Analysts say the affair threatens government stability but Berlusconi insisted Tuesday: "We have the numbers to govern, and we shall do so until the end of our term (in 2013)".

He added that the government intended to re-present a law to curb police wiretaps and their reporting in the press, limiting their use to crimes like terrorism, mafia, murder and paedophilia cases.

GAY GROUPS OUTRAGED.

Gay groups were outraged by Berlusconi's comments.

Long-standing gay leader Franco Grillini said Berlusconi's "bar-room quips fuel homophobia" while the leading Italian gay association, Arcigay, said "Berlusconi should apologise to gays and to women".

Arcigay's long-time leader Aurelio Mancuso said: "Berlusconi should be ashamed of that remark, which highlights his difficulty over the Ruby affair". "It is an undescribable comment and I hope gays on the right and the left rise up and condemn (him)".

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