ROME - An attacker hurled a statuette at Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, striking the leader in the face at the end of a rally yesterday, leaving the stunned 73-year-old media mogul with a bloodied mouth, police said.

Massimo Tartaglia, 42, accused of attacking Berlusconi in Milan as he signed autographs, was immediately taken into custody. The Italian leader was rushed to a hospital where he was being held overnight.

TV showed the stunned Berlusconi with blood under his nose, on his mouth and under one eye as he was lifted to his feet by aides after the attack. The leader was hustled into the back of a car, but he immediately got out, apparently to show he was not badly injured.

But Berlusconi had a "small fracture" of the nose, two broken teeth and an injury to the inside and outside of his lip, said Paolo Klun, chief spokesman for Milan's San Raffaele Hospital.

"He wanted to go home right away, but he is being held as a precaution" for overnight observation, Klun said.

The premier suffered "a significant bruising trauma from this blunt instrument that was hurled at him."

The attack occurred after Berlusconi had just finished delivering a long, vigorous speech at the rally to thousands of applauding supporters from his Freedom People party.

Police identified the man they were questioning as Massimo Tartaglia. They said that Tartaglia, 42, didn't have any criminal record but had suffered psychological problems in the past.

The attack occurred at a difficult political time for Berlusconi, who has been plagued by scandals.

On Dec. 5, tens of thousands of Italians fed up with the premier marched peacefully through Rome to demand his resignation.

The demonstrators expressed dismay over what they see as the businessman's conflict of interests, citing repeated government-backed laws that they contend were tailored to help shield Berlusconi from prosecution in cases involving his media, real-estate and sports empire. Berlusconi claims that the laws benefit all citizens.