Italy prepares own Calipari report

A report by Italian authorities is expected to scrutinise US conclusions on the shooting of an Italian agent by US soldiers in Baghdad.

    US soldiers in Iraq are often accused of using excessive force

    Italy said that on Monday it would make public its own version of events surrounding the 4 March death of agent Nicola Calipari, who had just won the release of Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena when he was shot at a US checkpoint on the road to Baghdad airport.

    The Italian Foreign Ministry said on its website on Sunday that Italy's report would illustrate problems of coordination with authorities in Iraq and with rules of engagement for checkpoints.

    Italian newspapers said that Italian investigators would differ on several points with their US counterparts, including the contention that US authorities were informed of the operation several hours before the shooting and were told of Sgrena's release 25 minutes before Calipari was killed.

    The Italian report will argue that rapid removal of evidence from the site of the shooting made a proper inspection impossible, newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica said.

    Differring accounts

    According to Italian news reports, Italy's findings will contend that the US soldiers should have given more warning to the car before opening fire, and complain that the checkpoint was positioned behind a sharp corner.

    Silvio Berlusconi is a key US ally

    The two Italian survivors of the shooting - Sgrena and an agent who was driving the car - insisted in testimony that the car was traveling at about 40-50kph on a rain-slicked road, and that soldiers at the temporary checkpoint flashed a beam of light at them in apparent warning just before the shooting began.

    The US military contends that the car was going about twice as fast as the Italians say, and that warning shots were fired at the car's engine block.

    On Saturday, the US military released its report, contending the car did not slow down at the checkpoint and that the US soldiers did not do anything wrong.

    But the two Italian experts who participated in the joint US-Italian probe - a diplomat and a military intelligence general - refused to accept US findings.

    Political controversy

    When several days of negotiations failed to yield a common report, both sides went their own way on the findings.

    The two sides are long-standing allies, and Italy is a partner in the US-led coalition in Iraq. Italy's approximately 3000 troops deployed in Iraq constitute one of the coalition's largest contingents.

    Calipari was instrumental in the
    release of an Italian hostage

    Although the Italian opposition praised the government's decision to dispute the US version, Premier Silvio Berlusconi will have to deal with other political fallout over the case, including calls to bring home Italy's troops.

    Roberto Calderoli, reforms minister in the conservative government, said differences over the investigation into Calipari's death should trigger "an attentive and deep reflection on when our troops should come back", according to comments reported in La Stampa newspaper.

    The US report contained many blacked-out portions, including the names of the soldiers at the checkpoint and their units. Italian prosecutors handling a separate probe in Rome have said they want to know the soldiers' names.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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