Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has hit back at his critics, saying he is far and away the best leader in Italian history and has never considered resigning over scandals concerning his private life.The 72-year-old media tycoon was in the middle of a press conference with his Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero when he rounded on opponents. “I confirm that in my whole life, I have not even once paid for sex,” he said. Apologising to Zapatero for the length of his response to a critical question, the Spanish prime minister merely replied “there was no need” and that “it was interesting”. Berlusconi went on to say that a prostitute who allegedly taped an encounter with him could face 18 years in prison, before announcing: “I sincerely believe I am by far the best prime minister Italy has had in its 150 year history.” (since unification in 1861). But Berlusconi’s remark that “the most beautiful joy is the sexual conquest of a woman” has sparked fury in Italy. Deputy President of the Italian Senate, Emma Bonino said: “What embarrasses me is the public jokes or the public stereotyping that he is promoting. And I think this is not really the right message for young people, for instance, or a young girl, who definitely at the end will be convinced that the body is enough.” Berlusconi’s lawyer is suing newspapers in Italy and abroad for libel, over reports that women were paid to attend and in some cases have sex at his parties.