Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said there was "nothing remotely wrong" about his relationship with an 18-year-old Neapolitan woman, in a television interview broadcast on Monday.
Berlusconi, whose wife has recently demanded a divorce, was referring to opposition accusations, repeated in the media, of an inappropriate friendship with Noemi Letizia and her parents.
"We have clarified the situation and we will clarify it even more in the future," Berlusconi said, lashing out at what he alleges is a smear campaign orchestrated by left-wing media ahead of European elections scheduled in June.
"Those who use a private matter as a motive to launch a political attack are behaving in an undignified manner," Berlusconi told US television news channel CNN in an interview, the text of which was distributed by the premier's office.
Berlusconi reiterated his allegation that his attendance at Letizia's 18th birthday party, to please a "family of friends" was reported by leftist newspapers in a way aimed at misleading the Italian public.
"An error for which my wife also fell because she believed what was communicated by this (leftist) press," the conservative premier said.
Berlusconi's wife, the 52-year-old Veronica Lauro, announced her intention to divorce after accusing her 72-year-old husband of frequenting with underage girls.
On Sunday, one of the newspapers mentioned by Berlusconi, Rome-based left-leaning daily, La Republica, published an interview with a former boyfriend of Letizia in which he said that in the past she would sometimes allow him to overhear Berlusconi's cellphone calls to her.
The 22-year-old Gino Flaminio also said Letizia told him of how Berlusconi had invited her and other young women for a week's vacation at New Year's at one of the media mogul-turned-politician's Sardinian villas.
Letizia's father reportedly intends to sue Flaminio over remarks contained in the interview.
Elio Letizia, in an interview published Monday by Naples daily Il Mattino, said that he first befriended Berlusconi at a political rally in Naples 2001, and later introduced his daughter and his wife to Berlusconi during a Christmas visit to Rome.