Rome: Premier Silvio Berlusconi dismissed
calls on Tuesday to resign over his involvement with an underage
Moroccan runaway and even created a new uproar by claiming it
was better to love beautiful girls than gays.
His comments sparked outrage from gay rights groups
and fuelled new calls for him to step down.
Opposition politicians have charged that Berlusconi
abused his office by calling Milan police in May when the
then-17-year-old runaway nicknamed Ruby was detained for
Newspapers have reported that Berlusconi told police
that a local party official would take custody of the girl,
who had visited Berlusconi`s Milan villa on at least one
Even centre-right commentators in Berlusconi`s
family-owned newspapers have criticised him for intervening in
a possible criminal case. Berlusconi`s now-estranged ally,
Gianfranco Fini, said his antics had embarrassed the country.
But Berlusconi again defended his lifestyle and
fondness for young women, telling a trade fair in Milan today
it was "better to be passionate about a beautiful girl than a
Gay rights group Arcigay demanded an apology for
causing offence to both women and gays.
The premier`s comments "represent a dangerous
incitement to prejudice and helps legitimise discrimination,
injustice and suffering," Arcigay president Paolo Pantane
wrote in a letter to Berlusconi`s minister for equal
opportunity, Mara Carfagna.
In response, Carfagna defended Berlusconi`s record on
anti-discrimination measures and said he had just been joking.
"(He) absolutely never intended to offend women or
homosexuals," she said.
Berlusconi assured supporters today that his
government still had a majority and would last the remaining
three years of its five-year term. He said early elections
would be a disaster for a country grappling with economic
He contended that the Ruby scandal was whipped up by
hostile, deceptive newspapers and again defended his decision
to intervene in her case. Ruby was let go by police with no
charges after Nicole Minetti, a party official who is also
Berlusconi`s dental hygienist, took custody of her.
Berlusconi said today he`d do the same thing again.
"You will see when this is over that there was nothing
more than an act of solidarity," he said.