Italian PM Berlusconi punched, hospitalised



Italian PM Berlusconi punched, hospitalised Rome: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was bloodied and knocked to the ground by an attacker shortly after a political meeting in the Italian city of Milan on Sunday.

Berlusconi, who was hit in the face and bleeding profusely from the mouth, was rushed to Milan's San Rafaelle hospital.

Conflicting witness reports said Berlusconi was either punched in the face or struck by a miniature replica of the Milan Cathedral.

A medical examination revealed that Berlusconi had suffered damage to two teeth and also had cuts around his mouth. The Prime Minister never lost consciousness, but was being held in the hospital overnight while further tests were conducted.

Media reports identified the alleged attacker as Massimo Tartaglia, a man in his early 40s. Tartaglia allegedly approached the 73-year-old Prime Minister as he was leaving a rally of his People of Freedom party.

Tartaglia, a graphic artist employed at his father's firm near Milan, had been receiving treatment for psychological problems for at least 10 years, media reports said.

Berlusconi's spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti, who accompanied the Premier to the hospital, said the attack was the result of "tensions" in the country caused by the repeated criticism of the Premier by the centre-left opposition.

According to Bonaiuti, it was a concern expressed earlier in the day by Berlusconi himself, while the Premier was travelling to Milan to attend a rally in the northern city in advance of regional elections in March.

"There is a climate of hate. I hope nothing will happen," Berlusconi told Bonaiuti, the spokesman said.

"Unfortunately, he (Berlusconi) turned out to be a good prophet," Bonaiuti said.

Reform Minister Umberto Bossi described it as a "terrorist act". The attack was also condemned by opposition parties.

IANS