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Doctors concerned about Berlusconi’s morale after attack

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-15

In his first public word since being attacked in Milan, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said "love always triumphs over hate". Doctors say the premier is recovering, but they are concerned about his morale.

AFP - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was to spend his last night in hospital Tuesday but doctors ordered him to restrict public duties for two weeks following a bloody weekend attack.
   
Berlusconi's doctor said the 73-year-old leader would be discharged early Wednesday afternoon and that he has urged him to forgo public duties for at least two weeks following the attack that left him with a broken nose and other facial injuries by a man with a reported history of mental illness.
   
The prime minister Tuesday thanked well-wishers from his hospital bed in his first public statement since he was hit by a souvenir replica of Milan's cathedral after a political rally in the northern city.
   
"Thanks to all of the many who sent me messages of support and affection. I say to all of you, stay calm and happy. Love always triumphs over hate and envy."
   
The billionaire leader, who has already cancelled plans to attend the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, must "abstain from all activities that would expose him to public situations, to stress," said the doctor, Alberto Zangrillo.
   
"Physically, he is eating normally, but with a bit of difficulty," Zangrillo said. "In terms of morale, it's still a matter of concern ... but he is showing signs of recovery."
   
The attack aggravated an existing neck problem, he added.
   
Berlusconi's assailant faces charges of aggravated assault and up to five years in prison if convicted.
   
The man, 42-year-old Massimo Tartiglia, sent a letter to Berlusconi apologising for what he called a "superficial, cowardly and inconsiderate act".
   
Messages of sympathy poured in on Tuesday including from Berlusconi's Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin who praised him in a telephone conversation for his "manly behaviour" following the attack, a spokesman said.
   
Italy's political left and right traded barbs over tensions seen as contributing to the attack.
   
"The hand of the person who assaulted Berlusconi was armed by a merciless hate campaign," said Fabrizio Cicchitto, a member of Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party.
   
Cicchitto accused the left-leaning Espresso weekly and daily La Repubblica, anti-corruption politician Antonio Di Pietro as well as some television programmes of "almost wanting to transform (political) confrontation into a civil war."
   
Di Pietro, who heads the small Italy of Values party, shot back: "We are not an opposition out of hatred towards Berlusconi but out of love for our country."
   
In La Repubblica Di Pietro accused Berlusconi of encouraging a climate of "violence" through verbal attacks on a variety of perceived enemies.
   
The media tycoon has recently targeted prosecutors seeking his conviction on corruption charges, as well the Constitutional Court, which threw out an immunity law that protected him from prosecution while in office.
   
Last month after a Mafia turncoat alleged he had links with organised crime in the early 1990s, Berlusconi threatened to "strangle the authors of fiction about the Mafia."
   
The government moved to close down Internet sites encouraging further violence against Berlusconi, prompting centrist politician Pierferdinando Casini to raise freedom-of-speech concerns.
   
Pages on the social networking site Facebook both for and against Berlusconi's attacker were removed Tuesday.
   
The head of a parliamentary security watchdog sought to allay concerns over Berlusconi's security detail, describing the attack as an "isolated event that is not linked to any political wish or figure."
   
Francesco Rutelli, whose panel oversees Italy's secret services, added: "There were so many bodyguards around Silvio Berlusconi that you could look at it as a fluke that he was hit full in the face by the object that was thrown."
   
A member of the same panel earlier lamented "gaps" in Berlusconi's security.
   
The attack came as Berlusconi, now in his third term as prime minister, fights mounting domestic troubles.
   
Allegations about dalliances with a young woman led his wife Veronica Lario to file for divorce. She is reportedly seeking a settlement of 43 million euros (65 million dollars) a year.
   
Last Friday a Milan court adjourned one of the corruption trials against Berlusconi until January 15.

Date created : 2009-12-15

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