Italy parliament 'backs Berlusconi'

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The Italian parliament has rebuffed a request from prosecutors to search some of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's properties (AP)

The Italian parliament has rebuffed a request from prosecutors to search some of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s properties as part of a prostitution probe.

Milan prosecutors allege Berlusconi paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl and then used his office to cover it up.

They wanted to search the offices of a Berlusconi accountant Giuseppe Spinelli, who allegedly handled payments on behalf of the premier to the girl, as well as other payments to a number of young women who attended parties at his villas.

The premier has denied any wrongdoing.

Parliament rejected the prosecution requests in a 315-298 vote that came after a four-hour debate in the lower house.

The vote might have limited impact on the investigation. Magistrates are planning to go ahead with their probe and are expected to issue a request to charge Berlusconi as early as next week.

But the vote was a significant victory in a test of Berlusconi’s grip on parliament. The premier’s parliamentary majority eroded after he fell out with an ally last year, and he barely survived two votes of confidence in December.

Making the vote even more sensitive, Berlusconi had already suffered a setback when a parliamentary commission deadlocked a government plan to grant Italy’s towns and cities a greater role in taxation.

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