lifted from CNN.com
U.S. troops fire on Italian diplomat in Iraq
Friday, September 19, 2003 Posted: 6:12 PM EDT (2212 GMT)
ROME, Italy (AP) -- A U.S. soldier in northern Iraq mistakenly fired on a car carrying an Italian diplomat heading up U.S. efforts to recover Iraq's looted antiquities, killing the man's Iraqi interpreter, apparently because the driver wasn't following orders fast enough, the diplomat said Friday.
Pietro Cordone, who is the senior adviser for cultural affairs of the U.S. provisional authority and the top Italian diplomat in the country, suffered a superficial wound in the shooting Thursday on the highway between Mosul and Tikrit.
An Italian foreign ministry official in Rome said it appeared the car's driver did not understand signals from the American troops, and that the Americans didn't understand what the car was trying to do. U.S. officials expressed regret over what happened, the Foreign Ministry said.
A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. George Krivo, told reporters in Baghdad that details on what happened were still sketchy.
"I don't have the details yet on that incident and we will work during the day today to find out the details and get them out to you," he said.
Cordone, interviewed on Italian state television, said it appeared an American soldier fired at the car because the vehicle didn't get back into its lane fast enough after trying to pass a column of American vehicles near the turnoff for Tikrit.
The diplomat, who was seated in the back of the car with his wife, said the soldier motioned that the car should get back into the lane, then fired one shot.
"Perhaps there was a few seconds of lateness in carrying out the maneuver" to get back into the lane, Cordone said.
"Surely there was a mistaken interpretation of some movement by my car, even though, I repeat, we were on a highway in which American military police cars and my car were traveling normally, following the flow of traffic," Cordone said.
"The shot went through the interpreter's heart, went out his back and grazed me on my arm," the diplomat told reporters, looking dazed a few hours after the shooting. "We didn't violate any checkpoint."
Cordone expressed hope that U.S. authorities would give compensation to the interpreter's family, including a wife and two children.
Cordone, who was born in Egypt and has spent his diplomatic career in the Arab world, was appointed in May to head up the coalition office responsible for finding and restoring Iraq's looted antiquities.
He was at the Iraqi National Museum in June when three men returned the Vase of Warka, a 5,000-year-old white limestone vessel that is one of the most valuable of the museum's artifacts.
The museum, once the home of rare Islamic texts and priceless, millennia-old collections from the Assyrian, Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations, was plundered in the chaos that followed the fall of Baghdad on April 9.
The destruction triggered an international uproar, with many curators and archaeologists from around the world blaming the United States for failing to protect the institution.