Italian peacekeeping troops serving in Lebanon in 1983 were spared attacks because Syria's defense minister had a crush on Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, the minister has said in an interview.

Lt. Gen. Mustafa Tlas told al-Bayan newspaper he asked Syrian-backed Lebanese forces fighting an Israeli occupation not to attack Italian soldiers "so that not a single tear may fall from Gina Loll-o-brigida's eyes.""I gathered the heads of the Lebanese resistance and told them: `Do anything you want to American forces or to the British and others, but I do not want a single Italian soldier hurt,' " the Dubai newspaper Thursday quoted Tlas as say-ing.

"I was lucky. Not one Italian soldier was injured. Not because the Lebanese resistance followed my order but because the whole Lebanese people treated the Italians well," Tlas said.

He said he had been fond of Gina Lollobrigida since his youth.