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Statuette used to hit Berlusconi does brisk trade

MILAN, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Souvenir vendors reported brisk business on Tuesday in statuettes of Milan’s cathedral like the one hurled at Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in an attack at the weekend.

“Sales have definitely gone up,” stall owner Mario said in the cathedral square where the attack took place on Sunday.

“People are definitely buying it as a souvenir of the event, it seems to be one of the most popular Christmas gifts.”

A spiky replica of the gothic Duomo was used by an Italian man with a history of mental illness to strike 73-year-old Berlusconi in the face, breaking his nose, two of his teeth and gashing his lip.

The Italian conservative leader, who was hit while signing autographs after a political rally, will be released from hospital on Wednesday. Doctors say he will need two weeks’ rest and was badly shaken by the assault.

While there was an outpouring of sympathy for Berlusconi, tourists were taking a macabre interest in the statuettes like the one used to attack him.

“I had to get a souvenir, it will be a Christmas gift,” said Brazilian tourist Manuel Magalhaes.

The souvenirs come in different materials, with the heavier marble model costing about 10 euros and the lighter resin model 5-6 euros. It was not clear which one was used by Berlusconi’s assailant, 42-year-old Massimo Tartaglia.

“People keep passing by and picking it up to see how heavy it is, to see if the weight of the object could really have caused all that physical damage to Berlusconi,” said Mantuzzi.

Reporting by Reuters Television; writing by Stephen Brown: Editing by Angus MacSwan