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August 5, 2009

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Berlusconi's daughter takes father to task

SILVIO Berlusconi, the Italian premier engulfed in a sex scandal over alleged encounters with young women, has been taken to task by his daughter, who is quoted as saying in an interview that public officials should enhance moral values.

Barbara Berlusconi also said public officials cannot afford to differentiate between their public and private spheres, the Italian edition of Vanity Fair reports in an interview to be published today.

Berlusconi, 72, has been entangled in scandal for months over his alleged encounters with women, including a call girl who says she spent the night with him. Recordings of purported conversations between Berlusconi and the prostitute have been released by the left-leaning magazine L'Espresso on its Website.

Berlusconi's lawyer has disputed the veracity of the tapes, which include intimate details. Berlusconi has denied he ever paid for sex, and has called the allegations "trash." But he also said last month that he is "no saint."

"Politicians who are called upon to govern well, to make a community prosper, are also required to safeguard the values that it expresses, possibly elevate them," Barbara Berlusconi told Vanity Fair in response to a question about her father's enduring popularity despite the scandal.

"I don't believe that a politician can afford the distinction between public life and private life," she said.

Barbara Berlusconi is a director of Fininvest, the holding company for Berlusconi's media empire. Officials at the company and aides could not immediately confirm the contents of the interview.

The 25-year-old is the oldest of three children the premier had with Veronica Lario, his now estranged wife. Lario set off the scandal when she announced her intention to divorce Berlusconi, citing his selection of showgirls for European Parliament candidates and his attendance at the birthday party of an 18-year-old model in Naples.

"What doesn't show on the outside is that their pain is deep and it touches both of them," Barbara Berlusconi said of her parents.

The Italian premier said he would reserve some of his summer vacation to diet at a health center and then travel to Villa Certosa, his estate that has served as the backdrop of some of the allegations.


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