Ruby to put aside Berlusconi uproar at Vienna ball

Wed Mar 2, 2011 1:09pm EST
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By Sylvia Westall

VIENNA (Reuters) - The dancer in the eye of a political storm around Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Wednesday she hopes to put the scandal aside and enjoy her appearance as a star guest at Vienna's famous Opera Ball.

Karima el Mahroug -- an 18-year-old dancer known by her stage name Ruby Rubacuori (Ruby Heartstealer) -- will be on the arm of 78-year-old Vienna construction magnate and social lion Richard Lugner at the ball on Thursday night.

Ruby has become a focus of an investigation into Berlusconi, who has been ordered to stand trial in April on charges of paying an underage girl for sex and abusing his position to get her out of police custody.

"I hope that people will be able to react to me as they find me and not as 'scandal' Ruby," she told a packed news conference, constantly sweeping back her long brown hair from her face.

"I can only belly-dance, I can't waltz but I will try and dance with the others -- you can learn a lot that way," she said.

Dressed in a black silk skirt and furry jacket which she later shed to reveal a low-cut white top, Ruby appeared confident and ready to tackle questions about Berlusconi and her past, saying she had not done anything wrong.

Ruby has told newspapers that she attended parties at Berlusconi's residence three times and said they were "normal dinners" with lots of food, laughter and jokes.

She denies she had sex with him, but says he gave her 7,000 euros ($9,685) since she was in financial trouble.   Continued...

<p>Karima El Mahroug of Morocco, known as Ruby Rubacuori, attends a news conference in Vienna, March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer</p>