Veronica Lario, the wife of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has broken her silence over their acrimonious public divorce, saying that nobody knows the "true story" behind the break-up and that she and her marriage have been "brutally besmirched."

In her first public statement since she asked for a divorce at the end of April, Lario said in a brief letter to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, published on its front page, that "during these last weeks I have watched in silence without reacting in the media to the brutal besmirching of myself, my dignity and the story of my marriage."

She added, "What is certain is that the truth of the relationship between myself and my husband has not even been touched on, nor has the reason for which I had to turn to the press to communicate with him. It is also certain that I have always loved him, and that I have lived my life at the service of my marriage and my family."

Lario demanded a divorce after Berlusconi attended Noemi Letizia's 18th birthday party in Naples. Letizia, an aspiring model said she called the prime minister "Papi" and that he had "brought me up." She said that Berlusconi, who gave her an $8,400 gold and diamond pendant for her birthday, often phoned her, "and I go to him."

Announcing divorce proceedings, Lario said she could "not stay with a man who frequents minors," and that he was "not well." She was later reported to have told friends that "the problem is not just that girl" as reports emerged of parties at Villa Certosa, Berlusconi's Sardinian villa, involving semi-naked showgirls.

Two years ago Lario demanded — and received — a public apology from Berlusconi after he flirted at a television awards ceremony with Mara Carfagna, a former topless model, saying he would "marry her like a shot" if free to do so. Last year, Berlusconi defiantly made Carfagna Minister for Equal Opportunities after winning his third term as Prime Minister.

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