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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 March, 2005, 11:28 GMT
Italian press shocked by shooting
Saturday's Italian papers are dismayed at the tragic sequence of events that followed the release of journalist Giuliana Sgrena, held hostage by insurgents in Iraq for a month.

"Giuliana Sgrena is free - her liberator is murdered," reads the simple, uncompromising headline in Il Manifesto, the Rome daily for which Ms Sgrena works.

"A hero dies to save Giuliana" is the message on the front page of another Rome paper, Il Messaggero.

For Sergio Romano, a former ambassador writing in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, many of the events surrounding Ms Sgrena's abduction and release remain "murky". But one issue is quite clear.

"Like all hostages," he says, "Giuliana Sgrena has been used."

If Washington has any skilled diplomats between Rome and Iraq, it would be well advised to activate them at once
La Stampa

The journalist's kidnappers were, Mr Romano believes, not alone in exploiting her. Her case was also used by Italian left-wingers who "transformed the country's pity into demonstrations for peace".

Ultimately, he adds, Ms Sgrena fell victim to the US troops who shot at the car in which she was travelling, killing one of the Italian security agents escorting her.

But Mr Romano insists the "tragic outcome" of her abduction should not be allowed to fuel anti-US sentiment in Italy.

"We would not like Giuliana Sgrena, at the very moment in which she has found her freedom once again, to become a hostage to our worst kind of politics," he says.

'High price'

In Turin's La Stampa, Lucia Annunziata also senses the episode may place considerable strain on the "carefully woven" relationship between Italy and the US.

"If Washington has any skilled diplomats between Rome and Iraq," she says, "it would be well advised to activate them at once."

And the political repercussions within Italy, for government and opposition alike, are likely to be just as serious, she says.

"The government is paying a high price for this tragic conclusion: it has lost one of its men and is on a collision course with its own allies," warns Ms Annunziata, former chairwoman of the state broadcaster Rai.

"But the Left, too, is in danger of reacting by falling back on phobias rather than theories."

But it is Ms Sgrena's newspaper which best reflects the mixed emotions triggered by the nature of her release.

A first draft of Il Manifesto featured a cartoon of a man hugging a dove with an olive twig in its beak, accompanied by the caption "You've brought her back to us."

But the cartoon was redrawn for later editions, with the dove shown dragging itself along the floor in a pool of blood.

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