di Riccardo D'Andrea
Milan, February 11 - A Milan court on Monday agreed to a request from Silvio Berlusconi's defence team to postpone a hearing of the trial into allegations that the ex-premier had sex with an underage prostitute. The court scheduled the next hearing for March 4, after Italy's general election on February 24-25. Berlusconi is leading the centre right's campaign for the election and his lawyers argued TV appearances he had on Monday constituted a 'legitimate impediment' that prevented him from attending the hearing. Berlusconi is accused of paying to have sex with a young Moroccan dancer, Karima El Mahroug, better known as Ruby the Heart-stealer, before she was 18 during alleged Bunga Bunga sex parties at his home. Both the ex-premier and the woman deny ever having sex. She said money she received from Berlusconi was given as part of a gift. Berlusconi is also accused of abuse of office for allegedly having used his influence when he was premier to spring El Mahroug from a Milan police station to hush up the affair after an unrelated theft claim. The charge of having sex with an underage prostitute carries a jail term of up to three years, and abuse of office 12 years.