ROME -- Italy is challenging a U.S. report that cleared American soldiers of wrongdoing in the shooting of an Italian agent in Baghdad, a case that has sorely tested one of Washington's staunchest allies in Iraq.
The Italian investigation of the death of Nicola Calipari found that there were coordination problems among officials in Iraq and problems with rules of engagement for checkpoints, Italy's foreign ministry said on its Web site ahead of the report's release Monday.
A view of some pages of a report released by the U.S. Army which clears American soldiers in the death of Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari in Iraq, and recommends no disciplinary action following an investigation, Saturday April 30, 2005. The investigation concluded the killing may well have been prevented by better coordination between the Italian government and U.S. forces in Iraq. Large sections of the report were blacked out in the version released to the media Saturday. (AP Photo/Corrado Giambalvo)
The Italian government should ''maintain its position that gives its own reading of the events,'' former Foreign Minister Gianni De Michelis told Italian state radio.
''I believe it's also in the interests of both Italy and the U.S. to move beyond this affair as soon as possible,'' said De Michelis, whose small socialist party is an ally in Premier Silvio Berlusconi's ruling coalition.
Calipari was killed March 4, soon after he had secured the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena from Iraqi militants who had held her hostage for a month. U.S. soldiers fired on the Italians' vehicle as it approached an American checkpoint near Baghdad's airport. Sgrena and another Italian agent were wounded.
The U.S. investigation said the incident might have been prevented by better coordination between the Italian government and U.S. forces in Iraq. It also said the vehicle failed to slow down as it approached the checkpoint, and that the soldiers who fired at it acted according to the rules of engagement.
The Italian report contends that U.S. authorities were informed of the operation several hours before the shooting and were told of Sgrena's release 25 minutes before Calipari was killed, Italian newspapers said.
The Italian version also argues that rapid removal of evidence from the site made a proper inspection impossible, the newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica reported.
Italy and the United States have publicly differed over crucial points about the incident since the first hours after the killing of Calipari, who was hailed as a national hero. The two Italian experts who participated in a joint U.S.-Italian probe of the shooting refused to sign off on the American conclusions.
When several days of negotiations failed to yield a common report, both sides went their own way.
The two sides are long-standing allies, and Italy is a main partner in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The approximately 3,000 Italian troops sent to Iraq for reconstruction constitute one of the coalition's largest contingents.
Though the opposition praised the government's decision to dispute the U.S. version, Berlusconi, a staunch American ally, will have to deal with other political fallout over the case, including calls to bring home Italy's troops from Iraq.
Roberto Calderoli, reforms minister in the conservative government, said differences over the investigation into Calipari's death should trigger ''an attentive and deep reflection on when our troops should come back,'' according to comments reported in La Stampa newspaper.
The U.S. report contained many blacked-out portions, including the names of the soldiers at the checkpoint and their units. But due to an apparent error, what was blacked out in the report could be read in some downloaded versions.
U.S. authorities in Iraq said Sunday they were aware of the situation and were looking into it. In Washington, officials at the Pentagon did not return calls.
Some of the material that had been blacked out discussed training for checkpoint duty and checkpoint procedures.
Other parts listed the number of attacks over recent months on the road to Baghdad airport, the techniques used by insurgents to plant explosives on the route and methods used by the U.S. military to counter these.
© 2005 The Associated Press