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Italian PM Addresses Parliament About Killing of Agent in Iraq


Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says the Italian government did inform U.S. military forces in Iraq of its operation to win the release of a hostage who was later accidentally shot and wounded by U.S. troops. Mr. Berlusconi made the comment to the upper house of parliament Wednesday, as investigators were still trying to learn the details of the shooting, which left an intelligence agent dead.

The Italian leader says the United States military in Baghdad had been informed of the operation by Italian intelligence agents to obtain the release of journalist Giuliana Sgrena. He says Italy had also obtained authorization for safe passage.

Mr. Berlusconi said Italian agents had made the necessary contact with the U.S. military at the airport and obtained permission to circulate freely in the airport and nearby areas.

The prime minister described the circumstances of the killing based on the testimony of the other intelligence agent in the car, who was wounded in the arm.

He said the U.S. version of the events did not coincide with the Italian version.

Mr. Berlusconi said the car stopped immediately when a light flashed on the road to the airport but the shooting had begun at the same time. He said the shooting lasted 10 to 15 seconds.

Mr. Berlusconi said the friendly fire incident is painful to accept. But, he added, that the United States must take responsibility to ensure that the two allies can put the incident behind them.

He reassured Italian lawmakers that the United States has no intention of evading the truth.

Mr. Berlusconi said he was pleased the United States has accepted Italy's request to participate in the inquiry. He said an Italian military official and a diplomat would join the investigation, which should be concluded within four weeks.

The prime minister also said Italy and the United States have a strong and loyal friendship and therefore Italy had the duty to demand the complete truth from its ally.

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