ROME - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denied on Wednesday reports that he would freeze his own trials by decree, but vowed to press ahead with a disputed reform of the judiciary which critics say is tailor-made to favor him.
Some Berlusconi's allies had spoken of a possible government decree to suspend a number of trials, including those involving him, in the run-up to regional elections in March.
They said the measure was meant to implement a recent ruling by Italy's top court on the rights of defendants.
There is no decree, Berlusconi told reporters after a cabinet meeting, adding there was no need for new legislation to enact that ruling.
However, he pledged to press ahead with a separate bill submitted to parliament cutting the maximum duration of Italy's snail-paced trials, which would terminate two corruption and tax fraud trials against him.
After an opposition outcry, the bill was amended, allowing for longer trials of up to 10 years in case of serious crimes, but critics say it is designed to shield Berlusconi -- who has an ample majority in parliament -- from prosecution.
The 73-year-old conservative leader, who returned to work this week nearly a month after a mentally unstable man broke his nose and teeth, denies any wrongdoing and says the measure is not tailor-made to favor him.
The Constitutional Court ruled last October that a law granting immunity from prosecution to Berlusconi while in office was unconstitutional, allowing trials against him to resume.
Since then Berlusconi has pledged to overhaul the judiciary, accusing magistrates of hounding him for political motives -- an accusation he repeated on Wednesday comparing some magistrates to the man who attacked him in Milan's Duomo square on December 13.
I'm attacked at a political level, and the judicial attacks are comparable to that of Duomo Square, if not worse, he said.
Besides cutting the duration of trials, other measures being studied include a law giving Berlusconi legitimate impediment from attending court cases because of his official commitments, and a constitutional reform to restore his immunity.