updated 5/5/2005 4:54:30 AM ET 2005-05-05T08:54:30

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday that he disagreed with some of the U.S. military’s conclusions into the March shooting death of an Italian agent in Baghdad, but he said those differences won’t affect Italy’s friendship with Washington or its deployment of troops in Iraq.

Berlusconi differed with some of the major conclusions by U.S. military investigators into the March 4 shooting death of Nicola Calipari by U.S. soldiers. The premier contended that the checkpoint wasn’t properly marked and that responsibility for the troops can’t be ruled out.

“The absence of deliberateness doesn’t indeed rule out blame,” Berlusconi told lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies, three days after Italy issued its own report concluding that inexperience and fatigue played a role in the fatal shooting.

The slaying, as well the American conclusions that the soldiers bore no responsibility for the death of the agent, angered Italians. Calipari had just helped free an Italian hostage and was considered a hero.

Troop deployment to continue
Italians largely opposed the war in Iraq, and the U.S. conclusions cranked up pressure on Berlusconi to bring home Italy’s 3,000 troops.

But Berlusconi confirmed Thursday that the troop deployment would continue.

“We have no intention of establishing any connection between the assessment of the case in which our official lost his life and the role of our country in Iraq,” the conservative premier said.

The troops were sent in after Saddam Hussein’s ouster to help with reconstruction.

“We must insist in our commitment and assist the forces of a free and democratic new Iraq,” Berlusconi told lawmakers.

“Our friendship with the United States has overcome more difficult tests than this one,” said the premier, a staunch ally of President Bush.

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