ROME - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to further explain his relationship with an 18-year-old woman at the heart of a political and personal scandal.

In an interview aired Monday with CNN, Berlusconi denied that he lied about his relationship with Noemi Letizia and said he merely tried to protect her and her family's privacy.

Berlusconi's wife, Veronica Lario, cited the prime minister's presence at Letizia's 18th birthday party in Naples in announcing a few weeks ago that she would divorce the 72-year-old.

The conservative Berlusconi has denied any scandalous relationship with the woman and said he knows her father through decades-old Socialist Party circles.

He has said he attended the birthday party because he happened to be in Naples that day.

Berlusconi told CNN there was nothing "negative" about the relationship.

"Now, they have accused me of having lied in my statements to newspapers, so to confront such an accusation I will react, I will explain exactly what the situation is and I will have once again all the Italians with me," he said. He said there would be a "boomerang" effect against the opposition once the truth comes out.

Opposition demands for clarification heated up Sunday after the left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica published an interview with Letizia's ex-boyfriend, Gino Flaminio.

Repubblica quoted Flaminio as saying Berlusconi had invited Letizia and several other young women to his Sardinian villa for a week over new year's, and described what he said were phone calls between Berlusconi and Letizia that he listened in on. He said the prime minister asked her about her schooling, her interests and what her parents do in one call.

Letizia's father, Benedetto Elio Letizia, has said he would sue Repubblica and Flaminio for what he said was a report that was "seriously defamatory since it attributes to (Noemi) things never done, said, or thought" by her, the ANSA news agency reported.

The CNN interview was recorded Saturday, before Repubblica's interview with Flaminio was published. Officials said, however, that Berlusconi's position hadn't changed.

Berlusconi hasn't responded directly to Flaminio's claims. In a statement Sunday after the article was published, his spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti, focused on opposition demands that Berlusconi clarify his relationship.

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