A U.S. account of how its soldiers killed an Italian agent in Iraq was "clearly a lie", an Italian minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday, further stoking tensions between Rome and Washington over the shooting.
Italy and the United States have issued different reports on the death of Nicola Calipari, who was shot dead at a U.S. military checkpoint near Baghdad airport in March as he escorted an Italian hostage to freedom.
While the U.S. findings exonerated their troops over the incident and put the blame largely on the Italians, Rome said American soldiers and a badly executed road block were at the root of the killing.
"It is clear that in the Calipari affair there are two different versions of events and it is obvious that one of them is totally unfounded," Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli was quoted as saying by Italian media.
When pressed by reporters in parliament, he said the American version "is clearly a lie", making the most outspoken comment on the affair from a cabinet minister.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is due to address parliament on Thursday on the affair, but is expected to resist calls from some opposition politicians to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq in protest.
© Reuters 2005