US vow after cable car deaths

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The Independent Online
THE UNITED States and Italy have announced a comprehensive review of safety regulations relating to US forces in Italy in an attempt to ensure that the cable car disaster of a year ago is not repeated.

The review was announced in Washington yesterday by President Clinton and the Italian prime minister, Massimo D'Alema, as the Italian public and relatives of the victims voiced outrage over the acquittal of the American pilot whose low-flying surveillance plane caused the accident in which 20 people died on 3 February at Cavalese.

The court martial jury's "not guilty" verdict on Marine pilot Richard Ashby, on Thursday, created a difficult atmosphere for Mr D'Alema's first official visit to Washington yesterday. He was under pressure to appear tough over what Italian public opinion regards as a whitewash and said he had been "shocked" by the verdict.

The US Defence Secretary and the Italian Defence Minister are to conduct the safety review and their report is to be submitted to Mr Clinton and Mr D'Alema "as soon as possible".

Mr Clinton refused to comment on the verdict, saying that the judicial process was not yet complete. He accepted, though, that "the United States is responsible for this terrible tragedy" and pledged to "do what is appropriate" by the victims' families.