Silvio Berlusconi —

  • the checkpoint wasn’t properly marked
  • responsibility for the US troops can’t be ruled out
  • absence of deliberateness doesn’t indeed rule out blame
  • excessive and irresponsible use of force
  • lack of training and some recommendations.
ROME (AP) – May 5, 2005 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi spoke before The Chamber of Deputies today, said he disagreed with some of the US military’s conclusions into the March shooting death, of Italian agent Calipari in Baghdad. He also stated those differences won’t affect Italy’s friendship with Washington or its deployment of troops in Iraq.  

Berlusconi differed with some of the major conclusions by US military investigators into the March 4 shooting death of Nicola Calipari by US soldiers. The premier contended that the checkpoint wasn’t properly marked and that responsibility for the troops can’t be ruled out. “The absence of deliberateness doesn’t indeed rule out blame,” Berlusconi told lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies, three days after Italy issued its own report concluding that inexperience and fatigue played a role in the fatal shooting.

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The slaying, as well the American conclusion that the soldiers bore no responsibility for the death of the agent, angered Italians. Calipari had just helped free Italian hostage journalist Sgrena and was considered a hero. Italians largely opposed the war in Iraq, and the US conclusions cranked up pressure on Berlusconi to bring home Italy’s 3,000 troops.

But Berlusconi confirmed that the troop deployment would continue. “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.

“Our friendship with the United States has overcome more difficult tests than this one,” said Berlusconi, a staunch ally of President Bush.


Rome’s position on the killing of Nicola Calipari

“Our position and expectations were formulated on March 8: shed light on the circumstances of the death of Nicola Calipari. Identify those responsible and call for the guilty to be punished,” Berlusconi said at the start of his address to the chamber, in which many seats were empty despite the magnitude of the controversy.

He reiterated Italy’s view that US soldiers must shoulder some blame, highlighting “irregularities” committed by the US patrol “whose mobile checkpoint was not announced” and “who did not have precise instructions”.

Berlusconi and US clash on Iraq killing, says troops stay

USA TODAY – May 5, 2005 – Opposition leader Romano Prodi, expected to run for premier in elections next year, has contended that while there was no direct link between a pullout and the Calipari case, it was time to discuss the end of the mission. Two months ago, Berlusconi said that if security conditions allowed and the other allies agree, some Italian troops might start coming home as early as September. But no timetable for the start of withdrawal has been set.

After Berlusconi spoke, lawmakers had their say in the chamber. One of them, Piero Fassino, a center-left opposition leader, demanded that the United States apologize.

Calipari was shot at a checkpoint near the Baghdad airport less than an hour after he secured the release of Sgrena, who had been in the hands of her abductors for a month.

Rome prosecutors are conducting their own investigation into the case. But a leading Italian military prosecutor, Antonio Intelisano, told The Associated Press that it was unlikely U.S. soldiers would be prosecuted in Italy given legal restrictions and American protection of its troops in the past.


US soldiers were to blame for the death of an Italian agent in Iraq

REUTERS — Washington’s refusal to accept the blame has infuriated many Italians and put pressure on Berlusconi to speed up the withdrawal of some 3,000 troops from southern Iraq, which is provisionally slated to start in September.

But the prime minister repeated today that he would coordinate the eventual pullout. “The withdrawal of our troops certainly won’t be unilateral, but agreed with our allies.”

The Communist and Green parties demanded in parliament an immediate end to the Iraq mission, while the largest opposition party, the Democrats of the Left (DS), demanded an apology. “We believe that the government of the United States should say sorry,” DS leader Piero Fassino said in a speech.


Although the military inquiry is closed, Italian magistrates are pursuing their own investigations and Berlusconi said the government would give its full support to their efforts. “We remain committed to doing everything possible to uncover the truth behind what went on and the eventual responsibility for the tragic death of a heroic servant of the Republic,” he said, flanked by senior cabinet ministers.

The Italian report accused U.S. troops of failing to set up “the most elementary precautions” to warn drivers in the approach of a checkpoint, calling the planning and execution of the road block “careless to say the least”.

The US pinned much of the blame on the Italian driver, saying he had been driving too fast, and on a lack of communication from Italy over its secret hostage mission.

“The discrepancies over the causes and modality of this tragic accident proved to be irreconcilable … and I am certainly not going to be the one to minimise the scale of the disagreement,” Berlusconi said.

[Bold face emphasis added – Ed]


BBC Report

The 52-page document published by the Italian intelligence services queries the US military’s procedures, but does not find evidence that soldiers deliberately sought to kill Calipari. The Italian report concurs with the US inquiry’s finding about the Italian officer’s warning to his US aide about the rescue operation.

While agreeing on many other points, the Italian version:

  • emphasises the lack of warning signals – such as signs, bright cones, concertina wire – given to motorists of an impending roadblock
  • says the vehicle speed was half that reported by the Americans, denies there was any acceleration and describes the time between the warning shots and follow-up fire as “excessively short”
  • notes that the immediate removal of the vehicles involved, and the destruction of the US soldiers’ duty logs, made “objective conclusions” impossible
  • reports that an Italian military commander was not allowed to visit the scene in the immediate aftermath while US officials were given access.

Rome prosecutors are conducting their own investigation into the shooting, involving the analysis of the car in which the Italians were travelling. Criminal charges could stem from their eventual findings.


In this photo released on Tuesday, March 8
by the Italian RAI TG1 national television,
military personnel are seen near a car said
to be that in which Italian journalist Mrs.
Giuliana Sgrena was traveling with secret
service operative Nicola Calipari, during

her release in Baghdad, Iraq.

Italian PM accused of editing report on agent’s death

Il Messaggero quoted Mr Berlusconi as saying, “the report must in no case be the starting point of a diplomatic conflict with the United States”. He “read, reread, corrected and tweaked” the report, before handing it back to military intelligence.

According to the press, that was why the report was published four hours later than originally announced.

Italian public opinion has been infuriated by the killing of Mr Calipari, regarded as a national hero who did nothing wrong, as he shepherded journalist Giuliana Sgrena to Baghdad airport after she had been freed from a month in captivity.

The two Italian representatives on a joint US-Italian inquiry into the shootings refused to sign off on the US account of the incident.

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Berlusconi Disputes US Report on Agent ¶ Stays Friendly with No Consequences ¶ UPDATED
/by Oui Fri May 6th, 2005 at 23:43:25 PST/

NEWS Items will be added as story develops.

Oui – Liberté – Egalité – Fraternité

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