Saturday, April 30, 2005

Italy Pursues Criminal Probe Into Agent's Killing

ROME, April 30 (Reuters) - Italy asked its state prosecutors on Saturday to step up their probe into the killing of an Italian agent by U.S. troops in Iraq after the two allies failed to reach agreement in a joint investigation.

The dispute over the killing of intelligence officer Nicola Calipari in Baghdad on March 4 has strained ties between the two countries and prompted fresh criticism of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's staunch support for the war in Iraq.

U.S. soldiers killed Calipari when they opened fire on a car heading for Baghdad airport in which he was escorting Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been released by kidnappers.

U.S. officials said the soldiers followed their rules of engagement in firing on the car as it moved toward a checkpoint and should not be punished.

Italy has disputed this and Rome prosecutors opened a murder investigation last month into the death of Calipari, hailed as a hero in Italy for shielding Sgrena from U.S. gunfire.

"As far as Italy is concerned, it will be up to the judiciary to do everything it can, obviously with the support of the government," Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said after the allies announced their joint investigation had failed.

Media tycoon Berlusconi, who faces a general election in 2006, said he will report on the case to parliament next week.

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