Though Hilton broke off their engagement, the heiress's ex says he's "grateful" for their time together

By Janice Morris
October 01, 2005 03:30 PM

Calling Paris Hilton “the most incredible woman I have ever met,” Paris Latsis said on Monday that he respects the heiress’s decision Friday to break off their engagement.

“I love Paris very much,” Latsis said in a statement made through a rep for Hilton. “This was the best experience of my life. And I will always be grateful for it.”

Hilton, not wanting to make a “mistake,” called off her wedding to her Greek shipping heir boyfriend just four months after he had popped the question.

“She feels that she’s young and she wants to make sure it’s right,” actress Kyle Richards, Hilton’s aunt, tells PEOPLE. “She didn’t want to make a mistake with the whole world watching.”

On Friday night, Hilton – minus her 23-carat engagement ring – didn’t let the news keep her home as she partied at L.A.’s Spider Club with a group of pals, who at one point raised their drinks in a toast and clinked glasses. “She was dancing wildly on top of her booth,” says an onlooker. “She looked like she was having a good time.”

A source close to Hilton says the breakup “was her decision” and that she tried to return the ring to Latsis. “He’s very sad,” the source says. “He was trying to work things out. He was leaving her sweet messages.”

In his statement, Latsis says, “Right now is (a) very tough time for me.”

Recently the couple – who had spent the summer traveling Europe – had come under scrutiny after Hilton, 24, was seen out-and-about with her record producer, Scott Storch – sans Latsis.

Latsis’s father, Gregoris Kasidokostas, declined Saturday to say why the two broke up, but earlier had called a wedding postponement “common sense.” Latsis “is young and he should wait (for marriage),” Kasidokostas told PEOPLE last week. “He should be patient.”

Hilton and Latsis first met as teenagers 10 years ago in a Monaco club, and in December they rekindled their relationship while skiing in Gstaad, Switzerland, over the holidays.

In May, Latsis proposed to Hilton after she returned home to Los Angeles from a three-week trip to Europe, where she was promoting her thriller House of Wax and her new fragrance. The couple celebrated with a barbecue for 75 friends and family at the Hollywood Hills home they share.

A month later, Hilton picked out a 21-carat canary diamond as an “I Love You” ring and a white diamond engagement ring of at least 23 carats.

“I’m very in love – he’s the one,” Hilton had told PEOPLE. “I want to have kids in the next two years, because I know that completes your life.”

No date had been set for the wedding.