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Berlusconi Scandals Increasingly Attacked By His Opposition

ALESSANDRA RIZZO   07/21/09 01:48 PM ET   AP

Italy Berlusconi Tourism

ROME — Italy's opposition charged Tuesday that Premier Silvio Berlusconi's sex scandal has damaged the image of the Italian government, as a news weekly released more recordings of what appear to be conversations he had with a prostitute.

In a motion before the Senate that was blocked by conservatives, the opposition called on politicians to show "decorum" in their private lives and be cautious in their acquaintances – the latest fallout from the scandal surrounding Berlusconi's alleged encounters with young women.

On Monday, the Italian news weekly L'Espresso released tape recordings of what it said was the night Berlusconi spent with the escort. It released further recordings Tuesday, including what appears to be an explicit conversation between the two.

The premier's lawyer has disputed the veracity of the tapes, saying they were "the fruit of invention."

The motion presented Tuesday by the center-left Democratic Party says the scandal "has objectively weakened the image and authority of the Italian government." It urges members of the government – a conservative Cabinet whose members often defend family values – to be consistent in their private life and in their public speech.

Berlusconi's conservative coalition, which has control of the Senate, voted to postpone any discussion and vote on the motion – a move the opposition charged the party made in the hope the scandal would fade during the summer break. Still, it marks the first time the issue has directly reached the floor of parliament.

The 72-year-old Berlusconi has denied he ever paid anyone for sex, and has called the allegations "trash" meant to smear him. Polls show the monthslong scandal has hardly dented Berlusconi's popularity – a sign of his remarkable resilience and Italians' indifference to the sexual foibles of the political class.

The escort at the center of the scandal, Patrizia D'Addario, has said she taped her encounters with Berlusconi, as well as the parties he threw for young women at his residences.

In one of the recordings released Monday, a voice identified by L'Espresso as Berlusconi's is heard telling D'Addario that he was going to take a shower.

According to the reports, he says: "I'm going to take a shower as well ... and then will you wait for me in the big bed if you finish first?"

D'Addario has said the encounter took place Nov. 4 at Berlusconi's Rome residence – and that Berlusconi skipped a party for the U.S. election to spend the night with her. The woman, who had arrived in Rome from the southern Italian city where she is based, says she spent the night with Berlusconi, returning in the morning to a posh hotel in the capital where she was staying.

The tapes also feature an alleged phone call between Berlusconi and D'Addario on the morning of Nov. 5 in which the premier marvels at how he was able to get through a speech on such little sleep, L'Espresso said.

In one of the new recordings released Tuesday, Berlusconi and D'Addario are heard allegedly talking over breakfast. They appear to be teasing each other about their alleged sexual escapades the night before.

In the recording, the voice identified as Berlusconi is also heard asking the woman what her last name is, and then saying it himself, "D'Addario." Berlusconi has said in the past that he doesn't recognize D'Addario's name or face, noting that he meets many people every day.

The recording was posted on the magazine's Web site.

Berlusconi's second wife, Veronica Lario, made the first public accusations about her husband's conduct and said she was divorcing him.

The left-leaning L'Espresso is part of a publishing empire by the same name that also includes daily La Repubblica, which has spearheaded coverage of the scandal.

While the voice heard on the tapes sounds like the premier's, The Associated Press has not independently verified that Berlusconi is the speaker on the tapes.

Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, said Monday the tapes were "without any merit, completely improbable and the fruit of invention." He warned that legal action will be taken against anyone who distributes them. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

A party spokesman, Daniele Capezzone, was also not available for comment. Capezzone didn't deny the authenticity of the recordings on Monday but said L'Espresso was merely trying to revive an "already dead" media scandal.

(This version CORRECTS SUBS 6th graf to correct to coalition, sted party. AP Video.)

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Filed by Stuart Whatley  |