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Media report Berlusconi's wife wants a divorce

ITALIAN Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's wife wants to file for divorce, Italian media reported yesterday, just days after she publicly criticized his party's selection of young women to run in European elections.

"I have been forced to take this step, I don't want to add anything else," La Stampa newspaper quoted Berlusconi's wife Veronica, 52, as saying, adding that she had already contacted a lawyer. La Repubblica daily and ANSA news agency also carried the report.

The center-right prime minister's office declined to comment. Berlusconi's lawyer Niccolo Ghedini said: "This is a strictly personal matter. All matters like this one are private and painful, especially when they relate to family relationships. The prime minister at the moment has no statement to make."

Last week Veronica said his party's choice of female candidates for the European elections was a "shamelessly trashy" process.

She also accused him of going to the Naples birthday bash of an 18-year-old woman, the daughter of a political acquaintance, but not attending the coming-of-age parties of his own children.

Berlusconi, a 72-year-old media tycoon, told reporters he was sorry his wife had apparently believed "what she read in the papers," blaming a campaign against him as "hyped by the leftist press."

Berlusconi's People of Freedom party has been considering a number of former actresses and television personalities as possible candidates in the June European elections, media reports say. As party leader, he has a powerful voice in who makes the list.

"What's happening today (in Italy) behind a front of bodily curves and female beauty is grave," Veronica said in an e-mail to ANSA last week.

"Some have written that it is all part of entertainment for the emperor. I agree," she added. "What is emerging from newspapers is shamelessly trashy, all in the name of power."

Supporters of Berlusconi have criticized Veronica, a former actress. Berlusconi is Italy's second-richest man with a fortune of US$6.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

His party's Website has been inundated with messages attacking her. An editorial in Il Giornale newspaper - owned by Berlusconi's brother - said she was harming not just her husband but the whole Italian government.

Berlusconi has three children with Veronica, whom he married in 1990, and two by his first marriage.


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