ROME/SOFIA, March 7 (Xinhuanet) -- The United States faced new strains with
allies on Monday when Bulgarian media said an investigation into the fatal
shooting of a Bulgarian soldier in Iraq last week had showed that US troops were
Washington has already been under fire from Rome after its troops shot dead
Friday in Iraq an Italian intelligence agent who was accompanying a freed
Italian hostage on the way to Baghdad airport.
The Bulgarian solider was killed in southern Iraq on Friday, around the
same time that US forces in Baghdad opened fire on a vehicle taking Italian
female journalist Giuliana Sgrena to the airport shortly after her kidnappers
Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said an investigation showed
Bulgarian soldier Gurdi Gurdev had probably been killed by "friendly fire" from
"Someone started shooting at our patrol from the west, and in the same
direction, 150 meters away, there was a unit from the US army," he told a news
"The result gives us enough grounds to believe the death of rifleman Gurdi
Gurdev was caused by friendly fire."
Svinarov said the Bulgarian army's chief of staff had written to General
Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff,asking for an
Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov on Monday summoned US ambassador to
Sofia, James Pardew, demanding a "serious" investigation to determine the
responsibility for the incident.
Parvanov said Bulgaria "will demand that those to blame assume their
responsibility," Bulgarian Telegraph Agency quoted he as saying.
The president pointed out that this incident revealed the existence of
serious problems in coordination and collaborated actions of the coalition
forces in Iraq.
Pardew expressed his deepest regret over the shooting while promising to
convey the position of Parvanov to Washington and theUS military in Iraq. He
also expressed his hope that the incident would not affect the friendly ties
between the two nations.
Meanwhile, Rome renewed its demand for a full inquiry into the shooting by
US troops that killed Italian agent Nicola Calipari and wounded journalist
Sgrena and two Italian officials.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday summoned once again the
US ambassador to Italy to renew his demand for a full investigation, as the
nation held a state funeral in Rome forCalipari.
At the end of their 45-minute meeting, US ambassador Mel Sembler submitted
a written report to Berlusconi, which may cover the results of initial
investigation by the United States of the shooting, Italian press said.
Shortly after the shooting, Berlusconi summoned Sembler on Friday and
demanded an explanation. Sembler told Berlusconi he hadasked Washington for an
immediate clarification and promised a thorough investigation.
US President George W. Bush expressed his regret as he called Berlusconi,
and promised that the shooting would be fully investigated, White House
spokesman Scott McClellan told reporterson Friday night.
Sgrena, who suffered shrapnel wounds in the shoulder, said it was possible
that they were targeted deliberately because the US opposes Italy's policy of
negotiating with kidnappers.
But the White House rejected Sgrena's suggestion that the US troops might
have shot them on purpose.
"I think it's absurd to make any such suggestion that our men and women in
uniform deliberately targeted innocent civilians," said spokesman Scott
McClellan. "That's just absurd,"
He said the road to the airport "is one of the most dangerous roads in
Iraq" plagued by suicide bombings and other attacks, and that forces often had
to make "split-second decisions to protect their own security."
The US military said earlier the Italian vehicle was traveling at high
speed and ignored instructions to stop. Sgrena disputed that account, saying
there was no warning and that they were traveling at a moderate speed.
US media quoted military sources as saying on Monday that the shooting was
due to a "lack of communication" between intelligenceorganizations of the two
countries. But Italian intelligence authorities said Washington should have had
The shootings triggered strong condemnation both in Italy and Bulgaria,
where a large proportion of people opposed the US-led war in Iraq, despite their
governments' support to it.
Angry Bulgarians called on Washington to explain the circumstances of Gardev's
death and some parties even demanded the parliament and government
reconsider the Balkan country's militarypresence in Iraq.
Protesters in Rome demanded a complete withdrawal of Italian troops
from Iraq, and a thorough investigation into the shooting incident. The Italian
press is crying over the "bitter price" the country paid for maintaining forces