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Italian Reporters in Iraq Out of Contact

March 28, 2003

ROME (AP) _ Seven Italian journalists in Iraq fell out of contact with their offices Friday after being stopped at an Iraqi checkpoint in the southern city of Basra, reports said.

An Italian state TV reporter said from Kuwait that two of the seven reporters had been arrested by Iraqi authorities, while the fate of the other five was unknown.

The seven journalists _ who all work for major Italian newspapers, including Milan’s Corriere della Sera and Rome’s Messaggero _ were trying to get into Basra to report on conditions there.

``Since this afternoon, we haven’t had any news. Their satellite phones ring without answer,″ RAI TV correspondent Sandro Petrone reported from Kuwait City.

RAI said 10 Italian journalists had been trying to get into Basra. Seven were stopped by the Iraqis, while three reportedly got away.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was ``urgently verifying news relating to the situation of the group of Italian journalists,″ adding that it was ``using all useful sources to promptly clarify the journalists’ situation and to re-establish contact with them.″

RAI said British soldiers in the zone had sent out a patrol to try to find the seven.

Italian state television said the seven missing reporters are: Franco Battistini of Corriere della Sera; Ezio Pasero of Il Messaggero; Leonardo Maisano of Milan’s Sole 24 Ore; Toni Fontana of Rome’s Unita; Lorenzo Bianchi of Bologna’s Il Resto del Carlino; Vittorio dell’Uva of Naples’ Il Mattino; and Luciano Gulli of Milan’s Il Giornale.

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