WASHINGTON - The United States has recalled its ambassador to Syria amid rising tensions over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon.
Before departing, U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey delivered a stern note, called a demarche in diplomatic parlance, to the Syrian government, said an official who discussed the situation only on grounds of anonymity.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, announcing the move, said it reflected the Bush administration's "profound outrage" over Hariri's assassination.
Boucher did not accuse Syria of being involved in the bombing Monday in Beirut. "I have been careful to say we do not know who committed the murder at this time," he said.
But he said the deadly attack illustrated that Syria's strong military and political presence in Lebanon was a problem and had not provided security in the neighboring country.
"It reminds us even more starkly that the Syrian presence in Lebanon is not good," Boucher said. "It has not brought anything to the Lebanese people."
Boucher refused to describe Syria's reaction to Scobey's diplomatic messages in Damascus. Syria has not yet taken any reciprocal action, such as withdrawing its own ambassador to Washington.
Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he sees no immediate need to change EU relations with Syria. In an interview with The Associated Press, Solana said he would also support an international investigation into the bombing.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, apparently referring to the note Scobey delivered to the Syrian foreign ministry, said the United States has "made it clear to Syria that we expect Syria to act in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and the disbanding of militias,"
Also, McClellan said, "we also made it clear to Syria that we want them to use their influence to prevent the kind of terrorist attack that took place yesterday from happening."
The administration had earlier condemned the killing of Hariri, a billionaire construction magnate who masterminded the recovery of his country, and insisted that Syria comply with a U.N. resolution calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
Hariri, like most Lebanese politicians, walked a thin line between criticizing Damascus and deferring to the country that plays a dominant role in Lebanon's affairs.
He resigned four months ago in light of tensions with Syria but was weighing a political comeback. A Sunni Muslim, Hariri was on good terms with Lebanese Christians and was especially close to French President Jacques Chirac, who has called for an international investigation.
Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, who heads the Near East bureau, will attend Hariri's funeral, a gesture of U.S. respect for the former prime minister.
The administration did not directly support Chirac on his call for an international inquiry, but the White House said those responsible for the bombing of Hariri's motorcade must be punished.
In Washington for meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney and Rice, the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said "it is still premature to reach conclusions" about Hariri's assassination.
Speaking at the Brookings Institution thinktank, Gheit said he hoped it would not touch off a cycle of killings and push Lebanon into civil war.