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Berlusconi blasts demand that he be tried

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi greets G8 leaders as they arrive for a round table session at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy on July 8, 2009. (UPI Photo/Stringer)
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi greets G8 leaders as they arrive for a round table session at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy on July 8, 2009. (UPI Photo/Stringer) | License Photo

ROME, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has blasted Milan prosecutors determined to try him on the suspicion of having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power.

Berlusconi, 74, said the demand for him to be put on trial was purely politically motivated and intended to disrupt the government.

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"It's a disgrace. It's disgusting," British newspaper The Guardian quoted Berlusconi as saying at a news conference in Rome. "I'm sorry that we have offended the dignity of, and thrown mud at, the country. I wonder who is going to pay for this activity whose only aim is subversive."

The billionaire-turned-premier, who denies any wrongdoing, added that he wasn't worried about his well-being.

"I'm a rich gentleman who can go on to setting up hospitals for children around the world as I have always wanted to," he said.

Milan chief prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati demanded Wednesday that a trial against Berlusconi be fast-tracked.

He said evidence gathered against the prime minister over the past eight months would prove that Berlusconi had paid women for sex, including at least one underage girl, Ruby, a Moroccan nightclub dancer who was 17 when she attended a party at the prime minister's house in Milan.

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Berlusconi could be put on trial as early as April if the prosecution gets a green light.

Ruby has publicly denied having had sex with Berlusconi. She admitted to having presented herself as a 24-year-old when attending the prime minister's parties.

Prosecutors say Berlusconi abused his power when he intervened on the dancer's behalf at a Milan police station when she was detained for alleged theft.

Ruby was released into the custody of a Berlusconi party ally after officers were told she was a niece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and that a diplomatic scandal would ensue if she would remain in jail, The Guardian writes.

Berlusconi is notorious for his passion for beautiful women -- he has even placed some of them in top Cabinet posts.

The Italian prime minister has had a rocky past year. He's been hit in the face with a replica of the Milan cathedral, labeled by U.S. diplomats in confidential cables as "feckless, vain and ineffective" and has had to face record-low popularity ratings.

Berlusconi recently survived two no-confidence motions but still battles the loss of his majority in Parliament, which undermines his ability to push through reforms.

Political analysts in Italy are also unhappy with Berlusconi's power struggle against the judiciary at a time when, they say, the country needs his complete focus to manage Italy's debt crisis.

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