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Smiling Berlusconi returns to Rome after attack

ITALIAN Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi returned to a busy political schedule yesterday after a month-long recovery from an attack in which his nose and two teeth were broken.

A smiling Mr Berlusconi said he was feeling well as he arrived at his Rome residence, cheered by a group of supporters holding up a "Welcome Back" banner. He met his coalition allies to set the agenda for the new year, including fiscal and justice reforms.

The image-conscious Mr Berlusconi touched his left cheek and pointed out to reporters that there was hardly any scar visible on his face. He was hit in Milan on December 13 when a man threw the statuette of Milan's cathedral at his face during a rally.

The 73-year-old leader was hospitalised for several days and has largely remained out of the public eye since.

Mr Berlusconi's popularity has increased after the attack in Milan, polls have shown. The images of his bloody and frightened face raised sympathy, as did photographs of the premier leaving the hospital with bandages on his face. Mr Berlusconi says he has forgiven attacker Massimo Tartaglia, who has been described as mentally ill and remains in custody.

The attack also pushed to the back burner a sex scandal that had engulfed the premier over his purported fondness for young women.

Justice reform plans have been in the pipeline for months, since legislation granting immunity from prosecution to the premier and other top officials while in office was thrown out in October.


Irish Independent