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Berlusconi finds humour in underage girl scandal

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian leader fighting charges from his estranged wife that he "frequents minors," managed to joke about the scandal on Wednesday, saying he liked Finnish women "as long as they are of age."
By HT Correspondent | AFP, Rome
UPDATED ON MAY 06, 2009 09:51 PM IST

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian leader fighting charges from his estranged wife that he "frequents minors," managed to joke about the scandal on Wednesday, saying he liked Finnish women "as long as they are of age."

"I like Finland and Finnish women, as long as they are of age," he said at an event at Rome's city hall, quoted by the ANSA news agency, in a clear allusion to the charges by his second wife Veronica Lario.

Berlusconi and Lario are heading for divorce after a row played out in the Italian press prompted by her public complaints over his roving eye and her fury over his "frequenting" teenage aspiring model Noemi Letizia.

The Italian leader attended Letizia's 18th birthday party last month, presenting her with a gold necklace.

A cruise ship crooner in his younger days, Berlusconi is renowned for verbal gaffes of all kinds, including sexist remarks.

Two Italian lawmakers last month filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights "because of his repeated statements that offend female dignity," according to Anna Paola Concia of the left-wing Democratic Party.

The billionaire premier ruffled Finnish feathers in 2005 when he said he would use all his "skills as a playboy, and even court the Finnish president" -- Tarja Halonen at the time -- to persuade her to allow Italy to host the EU food safety agency.

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