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Berlusconi to shun the limelight as he recovers from attack

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-15

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will leave hospital on Wednesday but halt public activities for 15 days as he recovers from Sunday's assault. His attacker, a 42-year-old man with mental health problems, has apologised for his "cowardly" act.

AFP - The attacker who broke the nose of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has apologised for his "cowardly" act but insisted there was no political motive.
Massimo Tartaglia, who prosecutors say has a decade-old history of mental illness, sent a letter to the 73-year-old Berlusconi who suffered a broken nose and face cuts and lost two teeth when he was hit by a souvenir replica of Milan cathedral.
The prime minister spent another quiet night in hospital in Milan but his doctors say he will not be able to leave before at least Wednesday and will have to wait 10 days before starting work again.
Tartaglia, 42, apologised for what he called a "superficial, cowardly and inconsiderate act" in hurling the replica cathedral into Berlusconi's face as he greeted supporters after a rally in Milan on Sunday.
"I don't recognise myself," Tartaglia, said in his letter which his lawyers took to the hospital. The man said he "acted alone (with no) form of militancy or political affiliation."
Tartaglia faces up to five years in prison if convicted of injuring the prime minister, who his doctors say suffers from severe headaches and has difficulty eating. His injuries also include a deep cut under his left eye.
Berlusconi has already had to cancel plans travel to attend the UN climate summit in Copenhagen this week.
Berlusconi's personal doctor, Alberto Zangrillo, said the prime minister lost about half a litre of blood in the assault and could have suffered fatal injuries had the figurine hit him in the eye or skull.
Berlusconi's spokesman, Paolo Bonaiuti, said the prime minister's second night in hospital was better than the first.
Berlusconi was awake at dawn on Tuesday and again immediately asked to see all newspapers whose front pages are devoted to the attack, which many say highlight a poisonous political atmosphere in Italy.
The spokesman said Berlusconi's return to official duties would be "a problem, because it is very difficult to keep him away from his work."
"It is the same with visits, they want to limit them, but he wants to see everybody."
Posters and cards with messages of goodwill have been left around the gates of the San Raffaele hospital where Berlusconi is being treated.
One banner put up by AC Milan football fans said "Forza Presidente" (Go President). Berlusconini is president of the illustrious local football club.
Key Italian political leaders went to see Berlusconi in hospital on Monday.
The attack has raised questions over the security around Berlusconi.
It "proves in a worrying way that the system for protecting the head of government is not effective and has gaps in it," said lawmaker Carmelo Briguglio, a member of a parliamentary security panel.
Bonaiuti said Monday that the prime minister had recently complained to him: "There's such a spiral of hatred, do you think something might happen?"
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni however said Berlusconi's security detail was "beyond reproach."
World leaders including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian and British prime ministers Vladimir Putin and Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Pope Benedict XVI sent messages of sympathy.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern in a telephone conversation with her Italian counterpart Franco Frattini.
The attack came as Berlusconi, now in his third term as prime minister, fights mounting domestic troubles.
Allegations about dalliances with younger women have led his wife Veronica Lario to file for divorce. She is reportedly seeking a 43 million euros (65 million dollars) a year settlement.
Last week he dismissed accusations of Mafia ties made by a turncoat criminal at an Italian court.
In October Italy's top court quashed an amnesty law that would have benefitted the prime minister, who faces corruption charges. On Friday a Milan court adjourned one of the trials against him until January 15.

Date created : 2009-12-15


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