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Iraq: US Kill Italian Agent, Journalist Released

Corriere della Sera

A macabre twist of fate – judgement of the U.S. unchanged


5 March 2005

«There was no final blitz, rather a macabre and tragic twist of fate. », says Minister for Foreign Affairs Gianfranco Fini. Corriere della Sera reached him by telephone in the United Arab Emirates yesterday evening at the end of a long day marked for him as well by relief for the release of Giuliana Sgrena, only to be slapped with the news of the death of Nicola Calipari, struck down at an American military checkpoint.

Q. Minister, would you ever have imagined that the Italian government would have had to summon the U.S. Ambassador to ask for explanations regarding the death of one of our secret service agents?

A. "Certainly not. This is a tragedy that strikes the family of a hero — since Calipari died a hero — as well as all Italians. Words do not come easily".

Q. Who do you think is at fault for what has happened in Iraq?

A. "This is a chance misfortune, the proof that sometimes reality is less predictable than fantasy. Who could have imagined such a thing?"

Q. What will the consequences be?

A. "This is a moment of great sorrow on which there must be no speculation. A public servant has sacrificed himself to save Giuliana Sgrena: she also was wounded in the shoulder as the bullets riddled our officer. Calipari deserves the respect of everyone".

Q. Who do you think could speculate on this?

A. «No one».

Q. Do you fear an anti-American backlash?

A. "No, no. I sincerely hope not. That would only leave a nasty stain on the memory of this hero. It would be like killing Calipari twice".

Q. I believe you knew Calipari personally. What's more, his wife works at Palazzo Chigi.

A. "I also knew him, not only his wife. My prevailing feeling is sorrow, and I believe that this is true for all Italians. When it is said that a sense of duty can lead to "the utmost sacrifice", one could think of this as an expression belonging to an Italy that no longer exists, but reality has proven the opposite. Calipari, like the Italian soldiers killed at Nasiriyah, is a modern hero. And this case is proof of the capability of our forces for self-sacrifice".

Q. Now that Calipari is dead, what will the Italian government ask of the United States?

A. "In the face of such a misfortune there is nowhere to point the finger. There was no final blitz. This was simply a macabre and tragic twist of fate. In my opinion, absolutely nothing changes with regard to what has been expressed a thousand times about the United States. Furthermore, the American command went into action immediately and has announced the opening of a rapid and exhaustive investigation".

Q. An obligatory question: was a ransom paid for the release of this journalist from Il Manifesto in Iraq? How was she liberated?

A. "She was freed thanks to a capacity to mobilise political, diplomatic and intelligence resources, the efforts of which fanned out in every direction possible".

Q. Through which resources?

A. "Through collaboration between the various forces and allied States; through an enormous popular mobilisation, which made it clear that this was a hostage that did not deserve to be treated inhumanly, precisely because she had never, in any way, expressed positions that could be deemed by the insurgents as hostile to the Iraqi people. She was freed also thanks to major political efforts".

Q. Who deserves the credit?

A. "The Italian people deserve the credit, as well as the international community. And, I repeat, the great capacity for mobilisation of our intelligence services".

Q. Were you informed that a solution to the kidnapping was imminent?

A. "This situation was handled with skill, generosity and discretion by Undersecretary Gianni Letta, who kept the highest State authorities informed. I never doubted the capability of our secret services to deal with this emergency, precisely because we were in constant contact with them through Letta. I would like to add one thing".

Q. Please go ahead.

A. "Silvio Berlusconi was also very skilful in fully grasping the meaning of this tragedy. His words were the right ones, direct and discreet words describing a tragic truth. Invocation of the concept of heroism must never appear rhetorical".

Q. The abduction of Giuliana Sgrena was an opportunity for the formation of an unusual pair: Gianfranco Fini and the Communist daily newspaper Il Manifesto. The common goal of freeing the hostage led to constructive contact between persons with very different backgrounds. Can you draw any conclusions from this?

A. "Our differences and antithetical stances on an infinite range of issues are so well known that I think it would be pointless to go into them. This was how it had to be done and this is how it was done. I consider it unremarkable".

Q. Well, it could be evidence of how the country has changed. Maybe even more than it seemed at Fiuggi.

A. "I am convinced that Italy has changed, in some ways, even though there are, at times, those old hold-outs that don't realise it. Italy is much better than the picture that politics paints of it".

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