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PM's wife says media 'muddied' her image

THE wife of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said yesterday that her reputation had been "muddied" by the media after her public demand for a divorce on grounds of infidelity plunged her husband into a major scandal.

Veronica Berlusconi unleashed a storm of public criticism over her billionaire husband's private life last month when she accused him of "frequenting minors," after he was photographed at the 18th birthday party of an aspiring model in Naples.

Some media, including outlets controlled by 72-year-old Berlusconi's Mediaset group, responded with stories about the private life of Veronica, a former actress and his second wife.

"In these weeks I have watched in silence, without responding in the media, the brutal muddying of my person, my dignity and my marital history," Veronica said in a letter to Italy's best-selling Corriere della Sera newspaper.

She said Italian media had not even touched on the reality of her relationship with Berlusconi, or asked why she had been forced to announce her frustration with their relationship through the media.

"What is certain is that I have always loved him and I have arranged my life around my marriage and my family," she said.

Berlusconi, whose center-right party did less well than expected in last weekend's European elections but still emerged as Italy's strongest force, has been quoted as saying that his wife had been his most effective opponent in the campaign.

Her allegations prompted media scrutiny of a New Year's Eve party in Berlusconi's Sardinian villa to which he reportedly invited dozens of young women and accusations that he had used state aircraft to fly in his guests.


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