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Minister defends TV hostage naming

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Frattini makes the death announcement live on TV.

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ROME, Italy -- Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has defended his decision to appear on a live chat show and reveal the name of a hostage killed by Iraqi kidnappers before the man's family had been told.

Critics accuse Frattini of turning the tragedy into a TV reality show. The family of the dead man was aghast.

Fabrizio Quattrocchi, one of four Italian security guards abducted outside Baghdad earlier this week, was shot dead after Italy refused to bow to the kidnappers' demands that it withdraw its some 2,700 troops from Iraq.

The news that one of the hostages had been murdered was reported by Arabic TV just before the Italian chat show "Porta a Porta" ("Door to Door") got under way.

The dead man's name was withheld until Frattini identified the victim sometime later on the show.

Frattini was flanked by distraught relatives of the other three hostages who didn't know who the victim was.

The foreign minister told La Stampa newspaper he only confirmed Quattrocchi's name after it was leaked by a journalist calling in to the show.

"As soon as the news was given I had to confirm it. The family was advised about 25 minutes later."

In a separate interview with La Repubblica daily, Frattini said: "I had to assume the serious responsibility of telling the public what was happening and I think it would have been more reprehensible if the foreign minister had quickly withdrawn to his comfortable office."

Quattrocchi's family was devastated.

"It was horrible that Fabrizio was gone and we received the news from 'Porta a Porta,'" the victim's sister Graziella told reporters.

The show on RAI state television is known as Italy's "third house of parliament" because of the high-profile guests it attracts.

Some critics have said it was inappropriate for Frattini to appear on it at all instead of working behind the scenes to resolve the crisis.

"Can anyone imagine the British, French or German foreign ministers spending their time during a serious emergency seated on the sofa of a chat show as Frattini did?" left-leaning la Repubblica asked in an editorial Friday.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia as the news emerged, also has come under fire.

Berlusconi issued a statement saying Italy's resolve had not weakened, but he has not addressed the nation in person.

"In those dramatic moments, Frattini was asked to give testimony before the country and that is what happened," La Stampa said in its editorial. "At least he was there. Not in Sardinia like Berlusconi."

Quattrocchi's death provoked shock and disbelief in Italy. ( Full story)

On Thursday, Berlusconi vowed that the videotaped execution would not affect his commitment to keeping troops in Iraq.

The prime minister's office said a top diplomat would be sent on an urgent mission to Iraq to try to secure the release of the remaining Italian hostages.

The killing has temporarily united Italians, a majority of whom overwhelmingly opposed the center-right government's support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"We must not recall our troops because a band of assassins have demanded it," said Francesco Rutelli, leader of a center-left opposition party.

"The vile blackmail by a band of criminal kidnappers must not be given the dignity of a political response. Italy is and must remain unified and together."

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