ROME - An Italian newsweekly has released tape recordings of what it says was the night Silvio Berlusconi spent with a prostitute in which the premier is purportedly heard asking her to wait for him in bed while he showers.
Berlusconi's lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, disputed the veracity of the tapes, saying Monday they were "without any merit, completely improbable and the fruit of invention."
The escort, Patrizia D'Addario, has said she taped her encounters with Berlusconi as well as the parties he threw for young women at his residences - which have become the source of major scandal for the 72-year-old leader.
Berlusconi has denied he ever paid anyone for sex, and has called the allegations "trash" meant to smear him. Polls show the months-long scandal has hardly dented Berlusconi's popularity - a sign of his remarkable political resilience and Italians' indifference to the sexual foibles of the political class.
The left-leaning L'Espresso newsweekly and La Repubblica daily put the recordings on their Web sites Monday. The magazine is the flagship of the L'Espresso SpA publishing empire that also includes La Repubblica, which has spearheaded coverage of the scandal. They didn't say how they obtained the tapes, saying only that the recordings were made during and after two parties the conservative premier threw last year at his Roman palazzo which D'Addario attended.
In one recording, a voice identified by L'Espresso and La Repubblica as Berlusconi's is heard telling D'Addario about a book he designed. According to the reports, he interrupts himself and 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 - and that Berlusconi skipped a party for the U.S. election to spend the night with her. She says she returned in the morning to her central Rome hotel.
The tapes also feature an alleged phone call between Berlusconi and D'Addario the day after in which the premier marvels at how he was able to get through a speech on such little sleep, L'Espresso and La Repubblica said.
D'Addario responds that she too wasn't tired but had lost her voice, the account said.
"How come?" Berlusconi asks, according to the tapes on the Web sites. "We didn't scream."
AP has not independently verified that Berlusconi is the speaker on the tapes.
L'Espresso journalist Antonio Massari, who wrote an accompanying story, said the recordings coincide with what D'Addario has alleged.
"We made as many checks as possible, and these audio tracks match with what Ms. D'Addario stated in many interviews" over recent months, he told AP Television News.
Berlusconi has said he doesn't recognize D'Addario's name or face.
A spokesman for Berlusconi's party, Daniele Capezzone, didn't deny the authenticity of the recordings. He said L'Espresso was merely trying to revive an "already dead" media scandal.
D'Addario has said she went public with her story, and the contents of the recordings, saying Berlusconi had reneged on a promise to help her out with a real estate problem she was having.
D'Addario, who has confirmed she is a high-end prostitute, has turned the recordings over to prosecutors in the southern city of Bari as part of an investigation into a local businessman accused of recruiting and paying young women to attend Berlusconi's parties.
The businessman, Giampaolo Tarantini, has apologized to Berlusconi for causing scandal, saying he merely brought the women to Berlusconi's fetes to show off and only reimbursed them for their travel expenses.
Ghedini, Berlusconi's lawyer, said in a statement to the ANSA news agency that the tapes were never supposed to have been released publicly because they were part of an ongoing investigation into Tarantini. As a result of the leak, he warned that he would pursue legal action against anyone who republishes the tapes' contents.
"The veracity and lawfulness of the declared recordings have already been contested," he said, according to ANSA.
Berlusconi hasn't been implicated in the investigation, and shows no signs of suffering politically for the revelations. His conservative allies won big in European Parliament elections after the scandal broke, and a poll published June 28 showed his popularity had only dipped two statistically insignificant percentage points - from 51 per cent to 49 per cent. The three-time premier, who has survived several corruption investigations, has insisted "Italians want me this way."
Berlusconi's wife, however, cited his fondness for young beautiful women in announcing a few months ago that she was divorcing him.
The recordings also include phone calls between D'Addario and Tarantini, including one made as D'Addario returned to her hotel the morning after she allegedly spent the night with Berlusconi.
"We didn't get any sleep," she tells Tarantini, according to L'Espresso, adding the premier was very "affectionate."
She tells him there was no envelope of cash from Berlusconi, as Tarantini had apparently promised. But she says instead she got a promise that the premier would send some aides to help her deal with some problems she was having in getting a bed and breakfast built in Bari, L'Espresso and La Repubblica said.