Syria's official news agency SANA said on Sunday that al-Assad "directed concerned parties" to rebuild Qana, Siddiqine and Qlaileh, three overwhelmingly Shia villages in the western sector of south Lebanon.

The SANA agency quoted al-Assad as saying his move was an expression of "support for the steadfastness of the brotherly Lebanese people and a contribution toward erasing traces of the savage Israeli aggression on Lebanon".

Lebanon's National News Agency said Fuad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, and Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese parliament, were informed on Sunday of al-Assad's pledge to rebuild the villages.

There was no immediate comment from the government in Lebanon.

Syria pulled its troops out of Lebanon last year, after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister. The withdrawal of Syrian troops marked the end of a 29-year military presence in Lebanon.

Pledges of cash and assistance are pouring in to help Lebanon rebuild after the devastation inflicted by Israel's air and ground bombardment in its 34-day offensive against Hezbollah.