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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 March, 2005, 13:15 GMT
Shooting fallout consumes Italian press
Italian president touches the coffin of Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari arriving from Baghdad to Ciampino's airport
Italian joy turned to grief

The front pages of Sunday's Italian papers are dominated by the fallout from the tragic aftermath of the release in Iraq of journalist Giuliana Sgrena.

Initial shock at the shooting dead by US forces of top Italian secret service agent Nicola Calipari, a key player in Ms Sgrena's liberation, has given way to anger and polemic.

Some papers warn that it would be wrong to use the death of Mr Calipari to stoke anti-American feeling in Italy, where there continues to be strong popular opposition to the presence of Italian forces in Iraq.

I felt his last breath and he died on top of me
Giuliana Sgrena writing in Il Manifesto

Commentators from all sides of the spectrum are united in the view that Washington has some serious explaining to do.

'Rain of gunfire'

Giuliana Sgrena herself gives an account of her ordeal on the front page of her newspaper, Rome's Il Manifesto.

She writes of "the most dramatic day of my life", describing how agent Nicola Calipari, to whom she was handed over by her captors, constantly reassured her during the release.

She tells of the moment that "a rain of US gunfire" hit their car.

Linking the demand to withdraw our troops to the death of Calipari would be [an] irresponsible attempt to exploit the sacrifice of our public servant
Corriere Della Sera

"Nicola Calipari threw himself on me to protect me, and immediately, I repeat immediately, I felt his last breath and he died on top of me... As for the rest, I can't talk about it yet," she writes.

'Sacrifice'

A number of papers including La Repubblica headline Ms Sgrena's words from her hospital bed on Saturday: "They shot at us for no reason".

"It has taken the usual 'tragic incident' to force the Italian government to straighten its spine for a day and forget its own vassalage" to Washington, says a blistering commentary on La Repubblica's front page.

The temporary unity between Italy's government and opposition in the face of the Iraq hostage crisis has been blown dramatically apart by the shooting, the paper says.

But Corriere Della Sera has strong words for the anti-war lobby.

The state of relations between the two governments... has undergone a sudden deterioration
La Stampa

"Linking the demand to withdraw our troops to the death of Calipari would be a conceptually wrong, morally questionable and politically irresponsible attempt to exploit the sacrifice of our public servant," the paper says.

'Serious consequences'

The turn of events in Iraq "risks having very serious political consequences", says La Stampa, and "not only because of the resurgence of anti-Americanism" among the Italian Left.

"Rather, it is the state of relations between the two governments, Italian and American, that has undergone a sudden deterioration," the paper believes.

"Hour after hour, the version of events provided by the US State Department in the aftermath of the incident began to wobble," it says.

Washington will need to give a detailed explanation and a full apology, it says, to prevent a "tragic error" from turning into a "rupture" with its ally.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.




SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Italy's joy and dismay
05 Mar 05 |  In Pictures


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