Berlusconi warns U.S. on agent's killing

Thursday, April 28, 2005

In an escalating controversy that has contributed to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's political problems and created a national uproar in Italy, Italian prosecutors began their own independent probe on Wednesday of the death of Nicola Calipari. The premier has put his government's prestige on the line with assurances to the nation that full light would be shed on the shooting.

Calipari, one of the top intelligence agents in Italy, had negotiated a settlement with hostage takers in Baghdad and was rescuing journalist Giuliana Sgrena from them when American soldiers fired on the car they were in. Calipari became a national hero for Italians after he bravely threw his own body across hers as the firing continued, killing him and seriously injuring Sgrena with a few bullets in her back. She is still recovering.

Meanwhile, Americans released a document, now described as incomplete, which says the U.S. Army, in a joint inquiry with Italian officials, cleared its own soldiers of any responsibility in the tragic events of March 4.

Demands for troops to leave Iraq from former president

The Prime Minister has put his reputation on the line says Francesco Cossiga, an ex president of Italy. He was quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA, saying he thinks Berlusconi would have no choice but to withdraw Italy’s 3000 troops from Iraq if the U.S. soldiers are cleared without further investigation, called by the U.S. a “friendly fire” incident. Cossiga is demanding the U.S. release them to Italian officials for trial or make the commitment to put them before an American court martial.

Berlusconi said that Italy would "never endorse" a report on the shooting by US soldiers of an Italian intelligence agent if it was unconvincing.

"If there are differences, they will emerge. But certainly, we will never endorse things that do not convince us," Mr. Berlusconi told reporters.

An international group of journalists, “Reporters without borders” (Reporters sans frontières), said they were “very surprised” at Tuesday’s report released by the U.S. Army.

“We are not convinced that everything possible has been done to establish what happened in this tragedy or to determine the responsibility of all those involved, and we reiterate our appeal for an independent international enquiry by US and Italian authorities," the press freedom organization said.

They had asked for a United Nations investigation immediately after the shooting. They also commented on the fact that the two Italian investigators disagreed with the findings of the U.S. Army and refused to sign the finished reports.

"We will see then what official reaction comes from the Italian government, which has a right to demand sanctions," it said.

Former hostage and attack survivor Giuliana Sgrena very critical of report

Ms. Sgrena again today described the Army’s announcement as a "slap in the face for the Italian government." U.S. investigators were satisfied, according to the report, that "the procedures were followed to the letter" by the soldiers involved. Ms. Sgrena repeated her statement that the car in which she, Calipari and another agent, the driver, were travelling had “no warning signal…no warning shot” and "the searchlight was turned on after the shots were fired."

The position of the U.S. high command, that soldiers had followed procedures, has remained unchanged since they first asserted this shortly after the incident occurred.

U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld said of the report and its investigators, "My latest information is that they [the Americans and Italians] have not come to a final agreement on a joint report...It's an investigation, it was done together, intimately, and I think that we'll just have to wait and see what they come out with."