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Berlusconi still in hospital after rally attack

RIA Novosti

15:59 14/12/2009 ROME, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will spend at least one more night in a Milan hospital after being attacked during a rally, his doctor said.

The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon after the 73-year-old premier had delivered a speech. He was greeting the crowd and signing autographs when a man hurled a statuette at him from close range, breaking his nose and two teeth.

Dr. Alberto Zangrillo said medics will wait until tomorrow to decide when to discharge the premier.

Berlusconi told the Ansa news agency that he was "fine" and that it was a "miracle" he had not been struck in the eye.

The attacker, Massimo Tartaglia, 42, is reported to have a long record of mental illness. His choice of weapon was a souvenir statuette of the Milan cathedral.

According to Italian media, Tartaglia was put in the San Vittore prison last night. During his first interrogation he said he strongly opposes Berlusconi and the policies of the Italian government.

The premier has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks. Last Thursday a mafia boss, Gaspare Spatuzza, said during court hearings that Berlusconi and his old-time friend, senator Marcello Dell'Utri, had ties with the mafia. A day later a rally gathered in Rome demanding Berlusconi's resignation.

The prime minister said he would not bow to public pressure and leave office before his term expires.

Berlusconi, who became the country's prime minister for the third time in May 2008, has previously been attacked in public. In 2004, a man hit him over the head with a camera tripod in Rome.



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