Topless Page 3 returns to Britain's The Sun

LONDON (AFP) - British tabloid The Sun published a photo of a winking topless model on Thursday, rebutting reports it had ended the controversial tradition that has featured in the newspaper since 1970.

Newspaper The Times, which, like the Sun, is part of billionaire media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's News UK group, reported on Tuesday that the Page 3 feature had been shelved and the news was welcomed by government ministers.

Nevertheless, The Sun featured a photo of a bare-breasted blonde woman in its Thursday edition under the words "clarifications and corrections".

"Further to recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page 3 and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth," the caption to the photograph read.

"We would like to apologise on behalf of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us."

Amid the publicity, The Sun had directed readers to find the topless photos on a dedicated website. Head of public relations Dylan Sharpe told AFP on Tuesday: "The Sun hasn't said either way what's happening to Page 3."

The No More Page 3 campaign, which had triumphantly celebrated the apparent change earlier in the week, announced "It seems the fight might be back on".

Last year, Mr Murdoch indicated the photos might be falling out of favour by asking his Twitter followers whether women looked better in "fashionable clothes" and describing the tradition as "old-fashioned".