U.S. may be planning to overthrow Syria's president

Shaul Mofaz, Israeli defence minister, said he believed sanctions would follow publication of a United Nations report expected to implicate senior Syrian officials in the murder of Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister.

"I won't be surprised if Syria gets a red card," Mr Mofaz told Israel radio. "[The United States] will take actions against Syria, beginning with economic sanctions and moving on to others, that will make it clear to the Syrians that their policies do not comply with UN decisions, the US's new world order or the prohibition of sovereign states to support terrorism."

On Saturday, President George W Bush and his national security council are to discuss America's options on Syria, ranging from tightening existing limited sanctions to military action.

Washington regards Syria as a transit point for fighters travelling to Iraq and a safe haven for Iraqi Ba'athists to organise and finance the insurgency.

Any action will have to await the outcome of the UN investigation into Hariri's murder in February.

Amid a wave of anti-Syrian anger and pressure from America and France, Assad was forced to withdraw his troops from Lebanon after a presence of 29 years, The Daily Telegraph reports.

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