U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called her Italian counterpart to discuss rival reports on the killing of an Italian intelligence agent by U.S. soldiers in Baghdad.
Last March Nicola Calipari, a high-ranking Italian agent, was escorting journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been freed by Iraqi kidnappers, when U.S. soldiers opened fire on their car near the Baghdad airport.
The intelligence officer was killed in the shooting and the journalist was wounded.
Italy and the United States launched a joint investigation into the incident, but in recent days have issued separate reports that differ in the description of the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
The Italian report blamed U.S. military authorities for failing to signal there was a checkpoint ahead. It concluded that stress, inexperience and fatigue among the American soldiers played a role in the shooting.
The U.S. report said the car was speeding, did not respond to warning shots, and that better coordination between the Italians and Americans could have prevented the shooting. The U.S. version cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says Secretary Rice called Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini Tuesday to discuss what he called the "tragic accident" that led to the death of Mr. Calipari.
"She expressed once again our sadness at his death, and our admiration for him,’ said Mr. Boucher. “But they also discussed the commitment that the United States and Italy have to continue to work together, to going forward, and working together on a variety of issues, including what we are both doing for the people of Iraq."
Mr. Boucher acknowledged the American and Italian reports differed on what happened during the incident, but he says both agreed that the shooting was a mistake.
"I think the reports do come together and say that this is not in any way an intentional act against the Italians or the Italian secret service or the Italian hostage. There are no grounds for assigning particular individual responsibility to American soldiers that were involved in the incident," he added.
Meanwhile in Rome, the foreign ministry issued a statement saying that both countries agree that the "episode has not and will not cast doubt on historic bilateral relations" between Italy and the United States.