Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi made one of his strongest denials yet in a scandal over alleged relationships with young women, insisting on Friday he has nothing to hide and nothing to apologize for.

Berlusconi responded to apparent criticism from his daughter, Barbara, who said in an interview with a magazine this week that politicians cannot afford to differentiate between their public and private spheres and should work to improve moral values.

During a news conference at his office, Berlusconi contended his daughter's comments were taken out of context and were not meant as criticism.

"Her dad has nothing to be sorry about in his private life and nothing to apologize for, even to his family members," Berlusconi told reporters. "The premier has no skeletons in his closet and cannot be blackmailed by anybody."

The 72-year-old conservative premier has been entangled in scandal for months over his alleged encounters with women, including a call girl who says she spent the night with him in his Rome residence.

Recordings of purported conversations between Berlusconi and the prostitute have been released by the left-leaning magazine L'Espresso on its Web site.

Berlusconi's lawyer has disputed the veracity of the tapes, which include intimate details. Berlusconi has denied he ever paid for sex, and says the allegations are a smear campaign by left-leaning media.

But he has also joked that he is "no saint."

In Friday's remarks, Berlusconi made another crack about his fondness for the female sex to respond to contentions that his attitude demeans women.

"Foreign newspapers ... continue to say that I hate women and that I am against women," he said. "If there is something I adore it's women, I believe that is widely known."