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Italy Disputes Shooting Account

Italy's foreign minister said Tuesday that U.S. troops killed an Italian intelligence officer by accident, but disputed Washington's version of events and demanded U.S. authorities thoroughly investigate the incident.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini told parliament that the car carrying the intelligence officer and an ex-hostage to freedom was not speeding and U.S. troops did not order it to stop, contrary to what U.S. officials say.

However, he also dismissed allegations that the shooting on Friday that killed Nicola Calipari was an ambush — a claim made by the released hostage, Giuliana Sgrena.

"It was an accident," Fini told lawmakers. "This does not prevent, in fact it makes it a duty for the government to demand that light be shed on the murky issues, that responsibilities be pinpointed, and, where found, that the culprits be punished."

The U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq ordered a follow up investigation Tuesday into the shooting incident. U.S. Brig. Gen. Peter Vangjel will carry out the inquiry.

Calipari was shot Friday as he headed to the airport with Sgrena, a journalist who had been kidnapped on Feb. 4. Sgrena and another intelligence officer in the vehicle were wounded.

"The car was traveling at a speed that couldn't have been more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour," Fini said. He said that a light was flashed at the car after a curve and that the gunfire — lasting 10 or 15 seconds — started immediately afterward, disputing U.S. military claims that several attempts were made to stop the car.

Italy's "reconstruction of the tragic event ... does not fully coincide with what has been communicated by U.S. authorities," said Fini. He added that the "sequence of acts carried out by the U.S. soldiers before the shooting" is one of the main discrepancies.

In a statement released Friday night, the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, which controls Baghdad, said that the vehicle was "traveling at high speeds" and "refused to stop at a check point."

It said a U.S. patrol "attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots in front of the car," the military said in a statement. "When the driver didn't stop, the soldiers shot into the engine block which stopped the vehicle, killing one and wounding two others."

Fini said that the hypothesis that the shooting was the result of an ambush, as suggested by Sgrena, is "groundless."

A senior U.S. official said the checkpoint where Calipari was killed was set up for the passage of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, reports CNN.

Ambassador John Negroponte had been expected to pass through the checkpoint a short time later, the report said.

Sgrena said over the past days that the shooting might have been intentional because the United States opposes Italy's policy of negotiating with kidnappers.

In Baghdad, a video purportedly made by the insurgents who kidnapped Sgrena claimed the group did not receive any ransom for her release.

The tape showed footage of Sgrena shortly before she was freed, and the claim was made by a man off-camera reading a statement. It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the tape, which was dropped off anonymously at the offices of Associated Press Television News in Baghdad.

The voice on the tape said Sgrena was released with no ransom "even though we were offered that."

It added that "the resistance refuses (to be paid). We hope that all journalists around the world would be released."

A written statement shown on screen and read by the man off-camera alleged that U.S. forces deliberately targeted Sgrena.

"America has cheated its close ally Italy by attempting to assassinate the Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena," the statement said. "The resistance has learned from its private sources in the heart of America that the CIA decided to kill the journalist."

The White House Monday said it is "absurd" to suggest that American troops deliberately targeted the car, reports CBS News Correspondent Peter Maer.

Two Italian prosecutors investigating the killing said that there's no evidence pointing to a possible ambush, according to news reports.

Fini stressed that the U.S. government is an allied country that has promised full cooperation.

The shooting outraged the nation and rekindled questions over Italy's involvement in Iraq, where Premier Silvio Berlusconi sent 3,000 troops. But the government has made it clear that it is not considering a withdrawal following Calipari's killing.

On Monday, Italy bade farewell to Calipari at a solemn funeral in a Rome basilica that drew 20,000 mourners.

Calipari has become a national hero in Italy, CBS News Reporter Sabina Castelfranco said. A highly experienced hostage negotiator, he was described as "a generous hero," a savior who must not be forgotten, during the funeral.

Several Rome newspapers said a lack of communication between Italian intelligence and U.S. forces may have led to the gunfire. La Repubblica daily, citing unnamed U.S. military sources, said that Italian officials did not send notice of the hostage's liberation or of the type of vehicle she was being carried in.

But Fini said that Calipari, an experienced officer who had negotiated the release of other hostages in Iraq in the past, "made all the necessary contacts with the U.S. authorities," both with those in charge of airport security and with the forces patrolling areas next to the airport.