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Berlusconi hits back as scandal deepens

ITALIAN Premier Silvio Berlusconi yesterday denounced as "garbage" a newspaper interview with a woman who said she was paid 1,000 euros (US$1,384) to attend a party at his Roman residence.

Italy's leading daily, Corriere della Sera, ran the interview with Patrizia D'Addario yesterday, adding fuel to a scandal that has enveloped the premier over his purported fondness for young women.

D'Addario told the newspaper she attended two parties at the premier's Roman residence. She said she was paid 1,000 euros for having come from Bari, in southeastern Italy, to attend one of them. D'Addario said she was also offered the chance to run in local elections for a party affiliated with Berlusconi's Freedom People's Party.

'Garbage and lies'

Berlusconi said that Italian newspapers were filled with "garbage and lies."

"I will not be deterred by these aggressions and I will continue to work as always for the good of the country."

D'Addario said during one party, she and some 20 other young women were shown a video of Berlusconi's meeting with former United States President George W. Bush and photos of Berlusconi's villas, and that the premier - a former cruise ship crooner - sang for them and told jokes. The interview didn't give D'Addario's age or occupation.

She said she could prove her attendance because she wore a recording device.

"You can hear his voice, and besides there were many witnesses, people who can't deny having seen me," Corriere quoted D'Addario as saying.

Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said the report was beyond "any factual or logical connection," and that D'Addario was disgruntled after failing to win in the first round of local voting earlier this month, according to the Website

Berlusconi has been on the defensive ever since his wife announced she was divorcing him, citing his purported selection of starlets and beauty queens for this month's European Parliamentary elections and his presence at the birthday party in Naples of an 18-year-old model.

Berlusconi has said there was nothing scandalous in his relationship with Noemi Letizia, whom he has said was the daughter of an old friend. He said he went to the party because he happened to be in Naples that day. He has accused the leftist opposition and left-leaning newspapers of mounting a smear campaign to try to discredit him.



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