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Italy, U.S. differ on shooting of Italian agent


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and Italy failed to come to the same conclusions in the investigation of the shooting death of an Italian intelligence agent at a U.S. Army checkpoint in Baghdad last month, officials said Friday.

The March 4 shooting death of Nicola Calipari strained relations between the United States and Italy, where the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has never been popular with the public.

Italian security agent Nicola Calipari, 50, died of a gunshot to the head as he was shielding Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena from gunfire. The shooting occurred as their car approached a temporary U.S. military checkpoint near the Baghdad International Airport. Sgrena and another bodyguard, who was driving, were wounded.

"The investigators did not arrive at shared final conclusions even though, after jointly examining the evidence, they did agree on facts, findings and recommendations on numerous issues," said a statement from State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli.

The statement did not elaborate on what conclusions had been reached, and Ereli told reporters no joint report would be issued. He said the U.S. report is under review, and the Defense Department would release it soon.

Italian investigators also are working on a final version of their report.

"They couldn't ask us to sign a reconstruction that didn't correspond to our own," said Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

Witness accounts vary

Sgrena, 54, was abducted February 4 in Baghdad. Her hostage takers released her one month later to Calipari and another Italian agent.

As the Italians approached the airport, soldiers from the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division shot into the car as it neared a temporary checkpoint, set up that night because John Negroponte, then U.S. ambassador to Iraq, was to pass by.

In the aftermath of the shooting, differing accounts emerged. The U.S. military said the Italians' car rapidly approached a checkpoint and ignored repeated warnings to stop.

Sgrena, who was wounded in the shoulder, wrote in an article published in her newspaper, Il Manifesto, that the "car was driving slowly" and "the Americans fired without motive."

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told the Italian Senate that the car's driver said he was driving slowly and braked quickly when the Americans shone a light at the vehicle.

It also was disputed whether the Italians informed the U.S. military of the airport run. Berlusconi said at the time that Calipari had told the U.S. military the Italians would be traveling to the airport.

A Pentagon official said the U.S. investigators' report concluded there appeared to have been no attempted coordination by the Italians.

The road to Baghdad International Airport is considered one of the most dangerous routes in Iraq and is a frequent site of insurgent attacks.

Statement praises Calipari

While in Rome earlier this month for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, Bush expressed his regrets to Berlusconi over Calipari's death.

Friday's U.S. statement again praised the slain agent for Italy's military intelligence service as "a remarkable man [who] gave his life, a senior SISMI officer who was extremely loyal to the Italian Republic and a valued friend of the United States."

"Our souls are saddened by his tragic death, and our loving and grateful thought goes to his family. Both Italy and the United States of America owe him deep and eternal gratitude," the statement said.

Still, the differing conclusions may further strain relations between the two countries.

Berlusconi, who this week had to form a new parliament, has said the 3,000 Italian troops in Iraq may begin a partial withdrawal this fall. He emphasized that move would be made only after discussions with Baghdad authorities and U.S-led coalition allies -- and that Italy will not forget its commitment to support the fledgling Iraqi democracy.

Berlusconi told Bush in mid-March he is hoping to begin the partial withdrawal of Italian troops in September.

The country's contingent is the third-largest force among U.S. allies in Iraq, behind Britain and South Korea.

Calipari is one of 28 Italians who have died in Iraq.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.


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