Rome, Aug.18 : Italy's billionaire prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has quashed rumours of an impending divorce by throwing a lavish 52nd birthday party for his glamorous wife, Veronica Lario, at his luxury villa on Sardinia's Emerald Coast.
The Italian media have been speculating about a possible divorce after a scandal over "erotic" telephone calls.
In them Berlusconi, 71, is said to have made raunchy comments about Mara Carfagna, 32, a former showgirl who is now a minister in his centre-right government.
Lario has refused to follow her husband to Rome and her appearances at official functions are rare. She prefers to spend up to two months at a time travelling in the Far East or Latin America.
Berlusconi invited his wife, children and grandchildren by his first and second marriages to a party he threw for her birthday at the villa. Asked whether peace had broken out, The Times quoted him as telling Chi: "There can't be peace if there wasn't ever any war."
The display of marital affection contrasts with previous summers when Berlusconi was snapped at the villa hand-in-hand with attractive young starlets. Berlusconi has spent lavishly this summer, buying another villa, believed to be his 12th, at Lesa on Lake Maggiore. Lario has visited it only once, telling a friend it was so perfectly furnished by its previous aristocratic owners that she would feel uneasy sleeping there - and preferred to stay at a nearby hotel.