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Italy raises stakes over Iraq death

Minister says U.S. must take responsibility for the 2005 slaying of an agent at a checkpoint.

March 05, 2007|From Reuters

ROME — Italy has raised the stakes in its dispute with the United States over the killing in 2005 of an Italian intelligence agent at a U.S. checkpoint in Iraq, saying Washington must set things right by assuming responsibility for the death.

Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema made the demand at a weekend commemoration of Nicola Calipari, the agent killed by a U.S. soldier on March 4, 2005, at a U.S. military checkpoint near Baghdad airport.

Calipari became a national hero for securing the release of kidnapped journalist Giuliana Sgrena. He died shielding her from gunfire at the checkpoint just after her release. Sgrena was wounded, and is seeking compensation from Washington.

A Rome judge last month ordered a U.S. soldier to stand trial for the killing but Washington has refused to hand him over and considers the case closed.

"The name of the person who is believed to have fired the shots is known. Whatever the truth is, this was a lost opportunity for the Americans," D'Alema said. "Right now, there is a need for justice to be done."

Spc. Mario Lozano of the U.S. Army's 69th Infantry Regiment has been charged with voluntary homicide for the shooting. The trial in absentia begins next month.

The U.S. military says the car carrying the Italians was signaled to slow down and warning shots were fired, but Italian prosecutors contest this.

Italy also is at odds with the Bush administration over its policy of seizing terrorism suspects on European soil and sending them for interrogation to other nations. An Italian judge last month indicted 26 Americans in connection with the abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan.

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