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Italy Says its Version of Iraq Shooting Differs from US Reports

Italy's Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini says the Italian and U.S. military versions of the killing of an intelligence agent in Iraq differ. But he ruled out that the shooting that killed Nicola Calipari was the result of an ambush.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini again repeated the Italian government's demand for a full explanation from Washington for last Friday's killing by U.S. forces of Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari.

Addressing the lower house of parliament, Mr. Fini said the U.S. military's version of the events does not coincide in all its points with the Italian one.

The U.S. military has said the car that was traveling to Baghdad airport with Mr. Calipari had approached a checkpoint at speed and failed to stop, even though soldiers used hand signals, flashing lights, and warning shots.

The soldiers opened fire killing Mr. Calipari and wounding Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, whose release from her captors the intelligence officer had secured moments earlier.

But Mr. Fini said there was no checkpoint, and the car was not traveling faster than 40 kilometers per hour. He also says no attempts were made to stop the car. He said that immediately after the shooting two young American soldiers repeatedly apologized.

Mr. Fini also said that the suggestion that the shooting was the result of an ambush, as suggested by Ms. Sgrena, was groundless. He said "it was certainly an accident, ... caused by a series of circumstances and coincidences."

Mr. Fini said it is the Italian government's duty to demand that light is shed on what happened and that those responsible are found and punished.

The State Department rejects suggestions that U.S. deliberately opened fire on the vehicle. "Nothing could be further from the truth," spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Ms. Sgrena has said her car may have been targeted because the United States opposes Italian willingness to pay ransom for hostages. But neither Italian nor U.S. officials have provided details about how authorities won the journalist's release after a month in captivity.

Mr. Fini said Ms. Sgrena was not kidnapped because she is an Italian or because Italy has soldiers in Iraq. She was kidnapped, he said because she was a Westerner and Italians are kidnapped in the same way that the French are.

The foreign minister stressed that the United States is an allied country and has promised full cooperation. He urged the center-left opposition not use the affair to stir up anti-American sentiment.

Italian newspapers reported Monday that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is not satisfied with the account of the events he has received.