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Italian opposition calls on Berlusconi to resign over sex party claims

Italy's prime minister is under pressure to resign after new allegations about his private life. The 74-year-old Silvio Berlusconi is unapologetic over stories about an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old dancer.

Silvio Berlusconi

Berlusconi said he had nothing to be ashamed of

Italian opposition parties are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi after new accusations about his private life came to light.

The allegations relate to the relationship Berluscoini is reported to have with a 17-year-old Moroccan girl known as Ruby, who was arrested by police for theft.

Italian media reports say that the girl, a dancer, told officers she had attended several sex parties in at Berlusconi's villa in Arcore, near Milan, although she denies having a sexual relationship with the Italian premier.

Italian newspapers on the stands

Italian newspapers are again filled with allegations

It is also alleged that the prime minister intervened to secure her release from custody. Opposition party leaders now say Berlusconi must step down, claiming that successive allegations have become a source of national embarrassment.

"Berlusconi can't stay a minute longer in a public role that he has betrayed in an indecent manner," said Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the opposition center-left Democratic Party (PD).

"Italy has a dignity that cannot be jeopardized across the world," Bersani added.

Fellow PD lawmaker Enrico Letta said Berlusconi's resignation was "unavoidable" if he had personally intervened with police.

In need of help, or a playful character?

Antonio Di Pietro, head of the centrist anti-corruption Italy of Values party, said he believed Berlusconi needed help.

Veronica Lario

Berlusconi's wife Veronica Lario, filed for divorce after a series of scandals last year

"Berlusconi must resign," Di Pietro said. "If he does not want to do it for Italians, he should do it for himself:"

Berlusconi, who has been at the centre of other scandals linked to parties with escorts - and with another teenage girl last year - has defended his lifestyle, insisting that he is merely a "playful person."

The Italian premier admitted to helping Ruby after her arrest, but denied having interfered with the justice system.

Scandals about Berlusconi's private life have hit the headlines regularly in Italy, with a series of scandals in 2009 leading to his wife Veronica Lario filing for divorce.

While Berlusconi's approval ratings have fallen gradually to below 40 percent, his minority right-wing government remains comfortably ahead of its left-wing opposition in the polls.

Author: Richard Connor (Reuters, AFP, AP)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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