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(photo credit: AP [file])
Syria's official news agency denied a report on Saturday night that President Bashar Assad had agreed to the deployment of European troops on the Syria-Lebanon border.
Earlier Saturday, Italian Premier Romano Prodi said that Assad had agreed "in principle" to a deployment of unarmed EU monitors on its border to help stem the flow of weapons into Lebanon.
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Prodi said in a statement that he had spoken with Assad several times over the last few days.
"I reminded President Assad that the European Union has significant experience in training programs for frontier guards, and that the idea of an EU mission of assistance on the border between Syria and Lebanon would be an excellent signal of cooperation between Syria and Europe," Prodi said. "President Assad gave me his accord in principle."
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An indication of agreement from Assad was considered significant, after he said last month in a TV interview that he would consider the deployment of international troops along the Lebanon-Syria border to be a hostile move toward his country.
Prodi said details of a proposal were being worked out and would be presented at a meeting of the EU's foreign affairs committee Thursday in Brussels.
Meanwhile, the US is attempting to arrange for German troops to patrol the border between Syria and Lebanon.
No agreement on German patrols has yet been finalized between Washington and Berlin, as Germany is still waiting for Lebanon's reaction to the proposal, Israel Radio reported.
Earlier this week, government officials Shalom Turgeman and Yoram Turbovich met with US national security advisor Steven Hadley to discuss, among other issues, German forces to deter arms smuggling from Syria into Lebanon.
On Friday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that Assad had assented to deploy a battalion to the Lebanese border in order to make good on a promise to halt arms smuggling.
Annan added that Assad had already asked Germany for help in training and equipping its forces for the mission, Israel Radio reported.