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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 May 2005, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Italy keen to search for own truth
By Irene Peroni
BBC News

US military report into the killing of Nicola Calipari
Entire pages of the US report are blackened out
Italy's first reaction to the news that the soldiers who killed Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari would never be punished was one of outrage.

Those Italians who thought the deployment of troops to Iraq was a necessary act of loyalty towards an ally are particularly embittered by the US inquiry's conclusions.

Many are now calling for a swift withdrawal, and even the Minister for Reforms, the Northern League's Roberto Calderoli, urged the government to reflect on "a schedule for the return of the troops".

"If the US troops really respected the rules of engagement... it means that the rules of engagement are wrong," he said.

The US military was totally unaware of the recovery and transport of Ms Sgrena
US report into Calipari's death
Italy meanwhile has announced it will publish its own findings, which strongly contradict the heavily-censored US report, on Monday.

According to press leaks, the new document accuses the US of "tampering with the scene of the incident".

It says that the soldiers were unable to indicate their exact position at the time of the shooting, and describes their testimonies as "contradictory, and in some cases totally unreliable", according to Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera, which on Sunday printed some of the Italian findings.

The US report said that its soldiers had acted within the rules of engagement and that the death was a "tragic accident".


The Italian media is now starting to question Italy's official version of the facts.

Pundits have raised several doubts over the way the case was handled by the government.

US military: Car approaches checkpoint at high speed
Troops attempt to tell driver to stop with arm signals, lights and warning shots
Soldiers shoot into engine

Italian government: Italy makes all necessary contacts with the US for safe passage
The driver stops immediately when a light flashes 10m away
At the same time, shots are fired into car for 10-15 seconds

The key issue is, once again, that of the alleged ransom.

In its final part, the US report says that "the US military was totally unaware of the recovery and transport of Ms Sgrena" until after the shooting.

Brig Gen Peter Vangjel, who led the US inquiry, wrote that "prior co-ordination might have prevented this tragedy".

Italy did not want Ms Sgrena's abduction to end tragically.

But in the wake of the killing of British aid worker Margaret Hassan, the murder of a woman no longer seemed unimaginable.

In this context, it does not seem too unlikely that the US military command might have been kept - at least partly - in the dark, according to Italian commentators.

US troops in Iraq load up car believed to be the one fired upon
Bullet marks may help clarify what happened
"A choice was made to pay terrorist organisations. This was done in secrecy," Daniele Capezzone, leader of the Italian Radicals, told Corriere in an interview.

"And to keep it secret, a stopover at the embassy [by Calipari and the hostage] was avoided, and they rushed and let people know only at the last minute," he added.

Embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is struggling to keep his fractious coalition together, has chosen to pre-empt a potentially fatal wave of criticism by rejecting the US conclusions.

And indeed some of his staunchest opponents, including communist daily Il Manifesto, have praised him for his "courage".

But the controversy is far from over, and the premier knows he must make sure his much-coveted, friendly relationship with US President George W Bush is not damaged beyond repair.

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