Ex-lover says relationship with Amanda Knox was love, nothing else

ROME (AFP) - Amanda Knox's ex-lover Raffaele Sollecito said on Monday that the pair's relationship had been one of pure affection and that he would no longer accept being called a murderer following the pair's acquittal of the bloody killing of British student Meredith Kercher.

"My relationship with Amanda was a simple story of affection. From this moment on I will not accept being labelled a murderer," he told journalists in Rome following the acquittal on Friday.

Sollecito, 31, said he had spoken to Knox, 27, but did not have any plans to meet up again. The Italian was twice convicted of having helped Knox in the knife slaying of Kercher in the university town of Perugia in 2007.

The case against Knox and Sollecito was thrown out by Italy's top court on the basis that a series of blunders in the police investigation and earlier trials meant it could never be proven the former couple were at the scene of the crime.

Sollecito, who was 24 at the time of the murder, had only been dating Knox for a week when Kercher was killed - but pictures of the young couple cuddling were used by prosecutors to allege he had carried out the murder for love.

"I've spoken to Amanda. Obviously we're both very happy. It was a short telephone call in which I wished her the best for the future," Sollecito said, insisting their relationship was "just one of friendship." "I don't have any plans to see her, I don't know if it will ever happen, I'm not anxious to," he said.

Both Sollecito and Knox are in relationships with other people, with the Seattle native reportedly engaged to a childhood friend.

Sollecito, who heard the news of his legal victory from his sister, who was present in court, said he felt like "somebody who had been kidnapped and then freed after seven years and five months." "When I got the call from my sister, it was like being reborn, it was the start of a new life," he said.