Italian magazine editor defends Kate pictures in bikini

LONDON (AFP) - The editor of Italy's Chi magazine on Wednesday defended the decision to publish photographs of Prince William's pregnant wife Catherine in her bikini, saying they were not in any way scandalous.

Alfonso Signorini told the BBC that the pictures were taken in a public place during the couple's holiday on the Caribbean island of Mustique and showed nothing more than a "moment of joyful relaxation".

St James's Palace has condemned the decision to publish by the magazine, which is owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, saying it was a "clear breach of the couple's right to privacy".

The pictures, which are not being run by the British press but are available online, show Catherine wearing a blue bikini walking through shallow waters and then on the beach with her husband, the second in line to the throne.

Mr Signorini said: "They are images of such unexceptional normality that there is only limited mention of them on the cover of the magazine.

"The photographs, which can in no way be considered scandalous, were bought from an international photo agency, do not harm the image of the protagonists and the reaction of the media seems to me wholly over the top.

"Moreover, the photographs can hardly be considered an invasion of privacy when the subjects are public figures in a public place, in the open air; specifically on a beach surrounded by other bathers.

"It is also true that the Italian press is not a party to the gentlemen's agreement between the British press and Buckingham Palace." He added: "What our readers will see is simply a moment of joyful relaxation being enjoyed by a smiling, happy couple. Where's the scandal in that?"

The royal couple are expecting their first child in July. Kate, 31, was admitted to hospital in December with severe morning sickness but is now said to be recovering.

An Australian women's magazine on Wednesday also defended its decision to print a copy of the pictures. Women's Day editor Fiona Connolly said they were taken not by a paparazzi photographer but by a fellow holiday-maker.

She insisted they were very different to the long-lens pictures of Kate sunbathing topless on the balcony of a chateau in France published by French magazine Closer last year, which sparked legal action by the royal family.