Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said in a television broadcast on Tuesday evening that his marriage to Veronica Lario was "finished or about to finish."
"It displeases me that a matter that is finished or about to finish is made so public by the newspapers when it should remain a private affair," Berlusconi said in an interview with Rai Uno.
"Frankly, I was not expecting this storm," he said, adding that in the past the media "have published false stories" and made "personal attacks based on slander."
The billionaire leader reiterated calls for his estranged wife Veronica Lario "to say that she was wrong" to accuse him of "cavorting with minors" -- in reference to him attending the 18th birthday party of a friend's daughter.
Lario has also clashed with her husband over his choice of inexperienced but attractive female election candidates.
On Tuesday Italian Catholic daily Avvenire reprimanded Berlusconi after his well-known penchant for glamorous young women triggered the start of divorce proceedings.
In an editorial, the newspaper said the 72-year-old had a "self-declared weakness for actresses in the bloom of youth" and called on the three-times prime minister to mend his ways.
News reports also circulated Tuesday that Berlusconi and Lario, a former actress 20 years his junior, had chosen the lawyers who will represent them in divorce proceedings.
Speculation over whether she will seek damages from her husband, whose family's fortune is estimated at 6.5 billion euros (8.7 billion dollars), filled the pages of Italy's press.
Berlusconi reportedly fell for Lario when she bared her breasts during a performance of a play, "The Magnificent Cuckold," in Milan in 1980.
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