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Whatever the truth, the affair aroused public opinion and put pressure on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to take a tough line with President Bush.

Mr. Berlusconi won plaudits last year when Mr. Calipari obtained the release of two young volunteers kidnapped in Iraq known as the two Simonas, also through payment of a multimillion dollar ransom.

That money reputedly came not from the state, but from the personal fortune of Mr. Berlusconi, a media magnate who is Italy’s richest man.

But the death of Mr. Calipari, while using his body to shield Miss Sgrena from U.S. fire, has sparked deep anger and could cost the prime minister in regional elections at the end of this month.

In the past, the Italian left detested the security services, notorious for skulduggery and links to the neo-fascist right, but since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the left has idolized men like Mr. Calipari, who spent most of his career as a police officer in his native Calabria fighting organized crime. He transferred to the military intelligence service just two years ago.

Several government ministers joined the driver of the car yesterday in rejecting the U.S. explanation that the Americans opened fire only after the driver ignored signals to slow down as he approached a checkpoint.

Mr. Bush has promised a full probe into why troops shot at the Italian car nearing Baghdad airport Friday evening.