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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-323072 Bush/Iraq/Italy (L) CQ
DATE:>
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/7/05

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT (CQ)

TITLE=BUSH/IRAQ/ITALY (L-ONLY)

NUMBER=2-323072

BYLINE=PAULA WOLFSON

DATELINE= WHITE HOUSE

/// EDS: ADDS headline; ADDS word in third graf of text to clarify. ///

HEADLINE: Bush Spokesman Denies Troops Targeted Journalist's Car

INTRO: President Bush's spokesman says it is absurd to suggest U.S. troops would knowingly target civilians in Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports, the comments came as an Italian security agent, killed at a Baghdad checkpoint, was given a state funeral in Rome.

TEXT: The agent helped obtain the release of an Italian journalist who had been held hostage for a month in Iraq.

They were on their way to Baghdad airport when the shooting occurred. Accounts of what happened vary, and an investigation is underway. But the former hostage - a reporter for the communist daily Il Manifesto - has suggested U.S. troops opened fire because Italy may have paid a ransom for her release.

When asked about her comments, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said the notion that U.S. forces would knowingly fire on innocent civilians is absurd. He said the highway to Baghdad airport is one of the most dangerous roads in Iraq.

/// MCCLELLAN ACT ///

"It is a road where suicide bombers have carried out attacks. It is a road where regime elements have fired on coalition forces."

/// END ACT ///

He said American troops serving there are working in a combat zone, and, sometimes, have to make split second decisions.

/// MCCLELLAN ACT ///

"They go out of their way to protect civilians and avoid civilian casualties. And we are cooperating closely with Italian authorities on the investigation."

/// END ACT ///

The White House spokesman said it is important for the investigation to be full and complete. He made clear the White House believes no one should jump to conclusions, until all the facts are in. (SIGNED)

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