Berlusconi: 'I'm not a saint'

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, facing a snowballing call-girl scandal, on Wednesday urged his detractors to understand that he is no saint, the ANSA news agency reported.

“I’m not a saint,” the billionaire leader said at the inauguration of a highway construction project in northern Brescia.

“You understand that, and let’s hope the people at La Repubblica understand that,” he added, referring to the left-leaning daily that has carried an unending stream of reports on the prime minister’s alleged peccadilloes since late April.

The series began with an unexplained relationship between the 72-year-old prime minister and an 18-year-old aspiring model, who calls him “Daddy”, sparking divorce proceedings from second wife, Veronica Lario.

The scandal moved on to compromising photos taken at Berlusconi’s luxury villa in Sardinia, published by the Spanish daily El Pais, before dwelling at length on the prime minister’s alleged night with call girl Patrizia D’Addario (42).

On Monday and Tuesday the weekly L’Espresso—which owns La Repubblica—posted audio clips on its website seemingly proving the liaison.

La Repubblica followed up on Wednesday with excerpts from the pair’s supposed breakfast the next morning.

Last month Berlusconi said he would not change and claimed Italians wanted him as he was.

“I am like that and I will not change. People want me the way I am,” he told a news conference. “They want me because I am good, generous, sincere, loyal and I carry out my promises.”

The media tycoon also pointed to a 61% approval rating, but the latest opinion survey published by La Repubblica put it at 49%.

It was the first time the figure has dipped below 50% since Berlusconi’s election in April 2008.

D’Addario has said she filmed Berlusconi’s bedroom with her cellphone as well as the bedside table with a framed photograph of Lario.

Berlusconi denied ever having paid money for sex, saying: “I have never seen the satisfaction that there could be in it without the pleasure of conquest.”—AFP

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