ROME - The scandal over Silvio Berlusconi's private life took a new twist Wednesday when Italy's president was forced to deny he had told newspaper directors not to publish salacious transcripts in their possession.

Paolo Guzzanti, a senator and former Berlusconi ally, made sexually explicit allegations about Berlusconi in his blog and said they were backed up by telephone transcripts which all the newspaper directors have but have decided not to use at the request of President (Giorgio) Napolitano.

Napolitano issued a statement saying Guzzanti's claim he had exerted pressure on newspaper directors was totally unfounded.

Berlusconi, 72, has faced mounting pressure over his sex life ever since early May, when his wife Veronica announced she was seeking a divorce, saying she could not stay with a man who frequents minors.

The initial focus on Berlusconi's friendship with a 17-year-old girl was soon eclipsed by allegations that female escorts were paid to attend his parties. One escort said she had slept with him and had audio recordings to prove it.

Berlusconi has denied paying for sex, but says he is not a saint.

His popularity has slipped during the summer of scandals but he still enjoys 49 percent approval ratings and a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Charles Dick)