American soldiers who shot and killed an Italian intelligence officer in a friendly fire incident in Baghdad generally followed instructions for dealing with potential threats, a U.S. investigation is expected to conclude.
But the probe into the March 4 shooting is also expected to raise concerns about the rules of engagement at a Baghdad checkpoint, a senior U.S. defense official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been finished.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged Tuesday that Italian officials who participated in the investigation have still not signed off on the report's conclusions. But at a Pentagon briefing, they provided no details about the report.
"My latest information is that they have not come to a final agreement on a joint report," Rumsfeld said of U.S. and Italian investigators.
"It's an investigation, it was done together, intimately, and I think that we'll just have to wait and see what they come out with," he added.
Myers said the final report will be issued in Baghdad.
According to Italian news reports, Italian officials disagreed with the U.S. findings and were refusing to sign it. Ben Duffy, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Rome, said the United States was still hoping for a combined report.
In Italy, members of the opposition party said they were disgusted with what appear to be the results of the probe allegedly concluding that American soldiers bore no responsibility, reports CBS News Correspondent Sabina Castelfranco. Some said its conclusions were expected and are a slap in the face by the U.S. to the Italian government. They said Rome must demand the truth. Others said the outcome is totally unacceptable and insulting. They said it's offensive to the memory of the killed intelligence officer and an act of arrogance by the Americans.
One opposition leader, Giuseppe Fioroni, denounced any absolution of the blame as an "unacceptable act of arrogance toward Italy."
In response to the public outcry in Italy over the reports, Italian Primer Minister Silvio Berlusconi apologized for what he called "an unfortunate leak" suggesting that the investigation into the shooting of an Italian agent by U.S. soldiers was completed.
Berlusconi assured Parliament on Tuesday that the U.S.-led probe into the killing of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq is not over.
He spoke shortly after the U.S. ambassador to Italy met with the premier's top aide to see if crucial differences over the investigation could be worked out. The government "will speak at the opportune moment," briefing Parliament when the U.S.-Italian probe is done, Berlusconi said.
Fifty opposition senators wrote to U.S. senators to urge American authorities to cooperate with Italian investigators and not "spoil" U.S.-Italian friendship.
The rules of engagement direct soldiers to use warnings, then deadly force, against potential threats as they approach, and are designed to avoid mistaken shootings while also protecting soldiers from suicide bombers.
The U.S. official, who spoke Monday, left open whether soldiers at the temporary checkpoint during the shooting could face criticism for their performance. However, a conclusion that they followed orders would make it less likely they would be accused of making significant mistakes.
The Italians' refusal to endorse the conclusions would hurt the report's credibility in Italy, which sent 3,000 troops to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion.
The Italian officer, Nicola Calipari, died trying to shield a hostage he had just helped free from her insurgent captors. He was killed when U.S. soldiers at the checkpoint fired on his car as it approached them. The hostage and an Italian officer who was driving were wounded.
From the first hours after the shooting, Rome and Washington have differed over what led to the killing.
Soldiers at the checkpoint said the car was speeding toward the checkpoint and the driver ignored warnings to stop. According to the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, the soldiers "attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots in front of the car."
"When the driver didn't stop, the soldiers shot into the engine block which stopped the vehicle, killing one and wounding two others," it said.
The driver and the ex-hostage, journalist Giuliana Sgrena, have insisted the car wasn't speeding and that the soldiers gave no warning. At the time of the shooting, they were driving to the Baghdad airport after negotiations led to Sgrena's release.
At a press conference, Sgrena and her editor claimed the killing of Calipari was no accident, reports Castelfranco. They said they wanted the truth about the incident and that they wanted to know who gave the order to shoot on the car.
Writing on the front page of the communist daily Il Manifesto, which sent her to Iraq, Sgrena denounced the U.S. conclusions of no-blame as a "slap" for Berlusconi.
"It's enough to see the car," Sgrena wrote in Il Manifesto. "The front windshield is intact, while the side windows and the one behind are shattered."
Italian officials are going to get a closer look at the car the Italian intelligence officer was driving, reports Castelfranco. The Toyota was being brought to Rome, where Italian experts will begin ballistic examination on Wednesday to reconstruct how the shooting took place that night. Italians had been asking to examine the car since the incident occurred.
Sgrena's lawyer says there are fears the car has been tampered with, Castelfranco added.
The senior U.S. defense official declined to describe any determinations the investigation has made about the car's speed and other disputed issues.
Another issue is to what degree, if any, the Italians coordinated their rescue operation with U.S. forces in the area.
In the days after the shooting, the top U.S. general in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, ordered a review of violent incidents at checkpoints to avoid any future mistakes. The shooting took place just a few days after a Bulgarian soldier was killed in a possible friendly fire shooting at another checkpoint in Iraq.