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Iraq Transition

Italy PM disputes U.S. Iraq report

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CNN's Jamie McIntyre has more about a report on the Iraq shooting incident in which an Italian agent died
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Is Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi right to challenge the U.S. report's conclusion that troops deserved no blame in the death of intelligence agent Nicola Calipari?
Nicola Calipari
Silvio Berlusconi

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has told Parliament that he disagreed with some of the U.S. military's conclusions into the shooting death of an Italian agent by American soldiers in Iraq.

"The absence of deliberateness doesn't indeed rule out blame," Berlusconi told lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies.

Berlusconi's statement is at odds with the U.S. conclusion that the troops deserved no blame in the March 4 death of intelligence agent Nicola Calipari.

However, Berlusconi said the death will not harm Rome's relationship with Washington and that Italy has no intention of speeding up its withdrawal from Iraq.

"We have no intention of establishing any connection between the assessment of the case in which our official lost his life and the role of our country in Iraq," the conservative premier said.

"We must insist in our commitment and assist the forces of a free and democratic new Iraq," Berlusconi told lawmakers.

"Our friendship has overcome more difficult problems than this," he said.

The premier's statement came a day after he had a "long and cordial" telephone conversation with U.S. President George W. Bush about the shooting.

Bush called Berlusconi on Wednesday and "renewed both his personal expression of condolences and those of the government and of the American people for the accident ... in which Dr. Nicola Calipari lost his life," a statement from Berlusconi's office said.

Calipari, 50, was killed shortly after he secured the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had been held by insurgents in Iraq.

U.S. soldiers opened fire on their vehicle as it approached a checkpoint en route to Baghdad International Airport. Sgrena was shot in the shoulder, but is recovering.

A report of a U.S. investigation into the incident claimed the vehicle was traveling at about 50 mph and failed to stop at a checkpoint when ordered to do so.

The report recommended no disciplinary action be taken against the U.S. soldiers involved.

An Italian investigation concluded stress and inexperience of the soldiers played a role in the incident, and disputed the U.S. account that no officials had been told about the plan to rescue Sgrena. It also said the vehicle's speed was 20 to 30 mph and no clear warning signals were given for it to stop.

Berlusconi told Parliament that the checkpoint was not properly marked and that blame for the U.S. troops could not be ruled out.

In the conversation with Berlusconi, Bush called Calipari "a heroic servant of Italy and an esteemed friend of the United States," according to the statement from Berlusconi's office.

He also asked Berlusconi to speak to the Calipari family on his behalf and express his "affectionate feelings, as well as his sharing in the tragic loss of their loved one."

Berlusconi has faced increasing calls to pull Italian troops from Iraq following the release of the U.S. report.

But, the statement said, America and Italy "remain solid in their work in favor of the people and the Iraqi government, for the reconstruction of a stable, free and democratic Iraq."

Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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