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Soldier Indicted For Murder

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday urged the United States to cooperate on judicial matters after a court indicted a U.S. soldier for the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence agent at a checkpoint in Baghdad.

Spc. Mario Lozano, a member of the New York-based 69th Infantry Regiment, was indicted Wednesday for murder and attempted murder in the death of Nicola Calipari, who was shot in 2005 on his way by car to Baghdad's airport shortly after securing the release of an Italian journalist who had been kidnapped.

Another agent, who was driving the car, and the journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, were wounded.

According to Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, "The international journalists who are being sent to Iraq are some of the most experienced journalists and they're going in there with a lot of support from their media organizations."

Italy has not sought Lozano's extradition so far but prosecutors have lamented that U.S. authorities have not responded to requests for more details about the soldier and haven't passed on to him documents concerning the investigation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Pasquale Ferrara stressed that the Italian judiciary had taken an "independent and autonomous initiative," but said the two countries should cooperate under a treaty of mutual assistance.

"All the opportunities for bilateral cooperation offered by the treaty of mutual judicial assistance that is in effect between Italy and the United States must be fully taken," Ferrara said during a briefing at the ministry.

The comments were made ahead of scheduled talks later Thursday between Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema and U.S. Ambassador Ronald P. Spogli - a meeting that comes amid recent friction in relations between Washington and Rome.

The Pentagon indicated Wednesday that Lozano would not be extradited, saying it considered the incident a "closed matter." The soldier, who is set to be tried in absentia in April, has said through friends in the military that he had no idea the car was carrying the Italians.

Nerves in Rome were frayed last week by a published appeal by Washington's ambassador and envoys from Britain and four other allies for Italy to keep up its military mission in Afghanistan. While insisting that Italy would continue its commitment in Afghanistan, D'Alema criticized the appeal as interference in Italian affairs.

On Thursday evening, D'Alema, who is also deputy premier, reiterated that commitment in talks with Spogli, the Foreign Ministry said.

The meeting allowed both sides to confirm "that traditional constructive collaboration ... which characterizes the relationship between the two countries and between the two governments, and that is based on consolidated understanding and friendship and on a broad sharing of values and aims," the ministry said.

D'Alema and Spogli discussed the published appeal on Afghanistan by the allies and "agreed that the case should be considered definitively closed for good," according to the ministry.

Premier Romano Prodi has pledged to keep Italy's 1,800-member contingent in Afghanistan but far-left allies in his coalition are uneasy with the decision and are threatening to vote against refinancing the mission in an upcoming vote in parliament.