Before departing, ambassador Margaret Scobey delivered a stern note - called a demarche in diplomatic parlance - to the Syrian government, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Tuesday, said.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, announcing the US move, expressed the Bush administration's "profound outrage" over al-Hariri's assassination on Monday.

The administration had earlier condemned Monday's killing of al-Hariri in Beirut.

"The United States will consult with other governments in the region and on the Security Council today about measures that can be taken to punish those responsible for this terrorist attack, to end the use of violence and intimidation against the Lebanese people and to restore Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and democracy by freeing it from foreign occupation," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

McClellan said it was not clear who was responsible for the bomb attack and refused to speculate whether Syria or Iran, was behind it.

Syrian reaction

The Syrian ambassador to the US, Iman Mustafa, however, played down the recall of his US counterpart from Damascus, saying it was a normal procedure between governments and their ambassadors.

Solana said he saw no need to
change EU policy on Syria

"I was recalled to Damascus nine times by my government in the past year only," the diplomat said.

He said he was not aware if Damascus would take a similar step, but pointed out he did not see any reason for the Syrian government to recall its own ambassador because "Syria is not involved" in the assassination of al-Hariri.

Mustafa said an ambassadorial recall did not necessarily amount to a downgrading of diplomatic relations.

EU no change

Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Tuesday that he saw no immediate need to change EU relations with Syria over the assassination. 

Solana said he would also support an international investigation into the bombing.

Asked if al-Hariri's killing would change EU relations with Syria, Solana said: "At the moment we have not any reason why it should."

However, he said that could change depending on the results of investigations. "At the end of the day, it depends on how the responsibilities on the assassination of Mr Hariri are resolved," Solana said.

"I hope very much that no country, no state has been involved in that terrible criminal act," he added.