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US, Italy Disagree on Conclusions of Shooting Inquiry

Italy and the United States have not been able to reach an agreement on a joint investigation into the killing of an Italian agent shot by U.S. forces in Baghdad. The two governments issued a joint statement saying the investigation was over but there were no shared final conclusions.

The joint statement issued in Rome and Washington said the investigations did not reach shared final conclusions on what occurred the night of March 4 in Baghdad, but agreed on facts, findings and recommendations on numerous issues.

American soldiers were at a checkpoint when they opened fire at an approaching car killing Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari. The agent had just secured the release of journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had been held by her Iraqi captors for one month.

After a joint investigation that lasted nearly two months, the circumstances that led to the shooting remain unclear. A report of the investigation is expected to be released in the next few days.

The American and Italian accounts differed from the beginning. The U.S. military said the car was driving too fast and failed to stop after repeated warnings. Italy says there were no such signals and the car was driving no faster than 50 kilometers per hour.

The two accounts also differ on the exchange of information. Italy says the Americans knew intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was on a mission in Baghdad. The U.S. says there was no communication of Italy's intentions.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini explained why Italy could not endorse the same report as the U.S.. He said, "…that out of a dutiful homage to Calipari and that indispensable national dignity that a government must have in such circumstances," the Italian government could not sign off on a reconstruction of the facts that it does not believe corresponds to what happened that night.

U.S. Defense Department spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said Friday the final report from the investigation is not yet ready, and he did not want to go much beyond the joint U.S.-Italian statement.

"I don't really want to talk about conclusions of the investigation,” he said. “The statement speaks for itself. The statement does not talk about conclusions of the investigation in specific detail, and it's not my place to do that. When they are completed with it [the report] administratively then we'll release it, and I expect that to be within days."

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is expected to refer the matter to parliament next week. He will explain why no agreement could be reached with the U.S.

The incident has strained Italy's relations with the United States, one of its closest allies. Mr. Berlusconi is now likely to face even more pressure to withdraw Italy's 3000 troops from Iraq.

Foreign Minister Fini said Italy's relationship with the U.S. will continue to be friendly and one of sincere collaboration. But he added that Italian magistrates will move ahead with their own criminal investigation to ensure that the truth emerges.