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Iraq Transition

Italy PM, Rumsfeld: Shooting inquiry not complete

Leaders dispute report that U.S. troops were exonerated

From Alessio Vinci and Jamie McIntyre
CNN


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The death of Nicola Calipari has strained relations between the U.S. and Italy.
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday disputed a report that an investigation into the shooting death of an Italian security agent and the wounding of a former hostage in Iraq had exonerated U.S. troops.

In fact, both men said the report had not been completed.

"My latest information is they have not come to an agreement," Rumsfeld said. "It's an investigation. It is done together. We'll just have to wait and see."

Nicola Calipari, 50, was killed March 4 soon after securing the release of hostage Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, an anti-war reporter for the communist newspaper Il Manifesto.

The incident has strained relations between the United States and Italy, who have been allies in the Iraq war.

Berlusconi, speaking to his parliament earlier Tuesday, said he was "sorry" to hear reports that the investigation had been completed.

"The government will speak when the time is right, and that is when the investigation has been concluded," the prime minister said.

Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he and Rumsfeld "haven't seen the report" and that it would be released in Baghdad.

On Monday, a senior Pentagon official said that the investigation was over and that U.S. troops would not face any disciplinary action.

The Italians were in a car that came under fire at a U.S. checkpoint on the way to the Baghdad airport. The investigators' report said there appeared to have been no attempted coordination on the part of the Italians to clear the U.S. checkpoint, the Pentagon official said.

Berlusconi and Italy's foreign minister have publicly disputed the U.S. version of events since the days immediately following the shootings, saying there was advance coordination with U.S. forces and no warning shots were fired before the vehicle was hit.

Berlusconi, who denounced the shooting, has said that according to information from the person driving the car, the vehicle was traveling at a low speed and braked very swiftly when a light was shone on it.

Earlier this month, U.S. President George W. Bush again expressed his regrets to Berlusconi over the incident. (Full story)

Sgrena has charged that American forces deliberately fired on the vehicle. (Her account)

She reacted strongly to the reported findings of the U.S. military investigation.

"It is worse that I thought," she said. "Now they're saying it is not their fault."

Berlusconi told parliament that members of his government are in close contact with their American counterparts in the investigation and had met with them earlier in the day.

He said another meeting was scheduled for the evening and that the government owes it to Calipari -- a skilled agent who had negotiated the release of other hostages -- to find the truth.

The prime minister, whose party has lost 11 of 13 regional elections in recent days, is in the process of reforming his government, which will not be official until it passes a confidence vote scheduled for Thursday. (Full story)

Italian magistrates are conducting their own unilateral investigation into the shootings and are being given access to the car that carried Calipari and Sgrena in hopes of determining how the soldiers fired on it.

Berlusconi faces parliamentary elections in 2006, and his decision to commit Italian forces to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was never popular at home.


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