On Saturday, the official news agency SANA, said: "There is no truth to news reports of Syria's acceptance of European border guards to monitor the border from Lebanon."

Romano Prodi, the Italian prime minister, earlier said Syria had agreed in principle to allow unarmed European Union personnel to patrol its border with Lebanon.

SANA did not say whether the force it was referring to was armed.

The agency said Prodi has offered Italian assistance to beef up Syrian border police in a phone call with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, on Monday. It did not say whether Syria would accept such help.

Prodi has telephoned al-Assad several times since the recent Israeli invasion of south Lebanon, which started after Hezbollah, which Syria supports, captured two Israeli soldiers on June 12.