Italy disagree with American plans to relieve U.S. troops of responsibility for killing Italian security agent

Reports: Italy, U.S. clash over investigation into shooting of Italian agent in Iraq

Italy is unhappy with American investigators' plans to clear U.S. troops of any responsibility in the killing of an Italian security agent in Iraq last month, Italian newspapers reported Thursday.

NBC News reported Wednesday that the joint U.S.-Italian commission's investigation was complete and that U.S. troops involved in the incident have been cleared of blame.

Italian papers Corriere della Sera and La Stampa, however, said that reluctance by Italian members of the investigating team to accept the Americans' version of Nicola Calipari's killing is holding up the signing of a joint report into the incident

According to the Italian papers, one point of contention was American authorities' refusal to allow Italian investigators to examine the car in which Calipari was traveling when he was shot, the reports said.

Calipari was killed on March 4 at a U.S. checkpoint on the road to Baghdad airport as he escorted a freed Italian hostage, Giuliana Sgrena. Another intelligence agent and Sgrena were wounded in the incident, which outraged Italy.

The joint commission included two Italian members. Ordered by Washington, it was led by a U.S. brigadier general and was expected to release its findings by mid-April.

Italy agrees that the shooting was an accident, but disputes key elements of the U.S. account. It has denied a U.S. claim that the car was speeding and refused to stop following warnings from the U.S. patrol.

News reports had differing accounts of the investigation's conclusions.

NBC said the joint probe failed to resolve the dispute over the speed of the car, with the Americans claiming the vehicle approached the checkpoint at about 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour and the Italians say it was traveling at a much slower speed.

NBC cited senior U.S. military officials saying American troops had respected rules of engagement.

Corriere said that the dispute over whether the car ignored warnings had not been resolved by the investigation, but that the U.S. officials had accepted that the car was traveling more slowly - at 40-50 kilometers (25-31 miles) per hour - than they had originally claimed.

La Stampa said both points of dispute had been resolved.

According to NBC, the investigation also found that U.S. troops shot at the car when it was 65 yards (60 meters) away, after flashing warning lights at 130 yards (120 meters) and firing warning shots at 90 yards (82 meters). In all, about four seconds lapsed between the first warning and fatal shots, NBC said.

Former hostage Sgrena said she would only comment once the final results of the report are published, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini insisted during a visit to Washington this week that Italy and the U.S. had shown excellent cooperation in the investigation.

Speaking after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Fini said any statements prejudging the outcome of the investigation would be a mistake.

In Baghdad, the U.S. Embassy and military officials refused to comment Thursday. Officials at the Italian Embassy and with the Italian military said they had no information.

In Rome, Premier Silvio Berlusconi's office and the Italian Foreign Ministry also refused to comment on the reports. But members of the center-left opposition demanded that the government inform the country about the commission's work.

AIDAN LEWIS, Associated Press Writer

On the picture: Nicola Calipari

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