I make all women feel a bit special - Berlusconi
Published 15/02/2011 | 05:00
Silvio Berlusconi has dismissed the estimated one million female Italians who took part in protests against his involvement in sex scandals.
He said he had only ever tried to make women feel "special".
Brushing aside demands that he should resign, the prime minister said he had always behaved with "respect" towards them.
He is due to hear this week whether he will be sent for trial on allegations of abusing his office and paying for sex with an under-age prostitute.
Prosecutors in Milan allege that several showgirls and escorts "prostituted themselves" for cash, jewellery and help with their showbusiness careers.
But Mr Berlusconi said Sunday's protests across Italy and Europe had been manipulated by his political opponents.
He said the charges against him, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years, had "no correspondence with reality".
"Every woman that has had the opportunity to know me knows my regard for them. I have always behaved with the greatest attention and respect towards them," the billionaire businessman said.
"I have always made it so that every woman feels, how should I say, special."
Opinion polls show that, despite the scandals, Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party still commands greater support than the opposition Democratic Party.
"I saw the usual factional forces mobilised against me by a certain section of the left which uses any pretext to beat an adversary whom they can't manage to beat at the polls," Mr Berlusconi said.
Mr Berlusconi insisted that his government would not resign.
"There is a lot of confusion but I have very clear ideas. The interest of the country is to have a stable government which carries on with its programme with determination," he said.
Newspapers have splashed lurid accounts of "bunga bunga" sex parties at Mr Berlusconi's private villa near Milan.
Mr Berlusconi denies doing anything illegal and his lawyers have produced witness statements saying that the events were no more than convivial dinner parties.
"The Milan prosecutors' office and the media has trampled on the dignity of my guests, exposing them to public scorn without any reason or regard for them," he said.