Italian newspapers on Tuesday quoted the internationally famous designer as saying that it was no crime for a woman to wear the burqa.

"It's a question of respect for the convictions and culture of others. We need to live with these ideas, we need to learn how to do it," Armani said.

His remarks came after a small town in northern Italy sparked a controversy this month by fining a woman for venturing outdoors in a burqa - a full length robe covering the head and face which is worn by Muslim women.

Though famous for his sexy, sophisticated outfits for women, Armani dismissed as absurd the view that women clad in the burqa are a possible terror threat.

Exotic

"To see a veiled woman on the streets of Paris used to have an exotic appeal. Now they are seen as terrorists and people take fright," he said.

"You can be packed with explosives even with your face uncovered."

A member of Italy's Northern League, which is part of the ruling coalition, denounced the burqa as a "symbol of death" because women involved in the Russian school siege of Beslan - that left over 300 people, more than half of them children, dead - had worn the robes.