A Milan court has rejected a request by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose passport was confiscated after his conviction for tax fraud, to leave Italy to attend a conference in Ireland, judicial sources said today.

Berlusconi, leader of the centre-right Forza Italia party, wanted to attend the European People's Party conference in Dublin on 6-7 March.

However, he cannot travel abroad unless he is granted a temporary permit by judges.

Berlusconi was stripped of his passport last year, when he was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to four years in prison, which was commuted to a year under house arrest or in community service. He was also banned from parliament.

Berlusconi, who accuses magistrates of waging a politically motivated campaign against him, has denied wrongdoing as well as suggestions that he might flee abroad.

Last December, he made a legal attempt to reclaim his passport by arguing that the travel ban violated Europe's Schengen accord on the free movement of citizens. The court rejected that argument.

One of his most outspoken allies, Daniela Santanche, called the Milan court's decision "a disgrace".

"Certain judges continue to engage in politics," she said.

The 77-year old billionaire media tycoon was forced to quit as prime minister in November 2011, as Italy teetered on the brink of a Greek-style debt crisis.