THE United States and France plan to introduce two UN resolutions next week aimed at holding Syria to account for meddling in Lebanon and for its alleged links to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.The moves
 Dr Rice requested the meeting. "The region and the world have a number of issues with Syrian behaviour," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. The Lebanese, Iraqi and Palestinian governments had all protested against Syrian practices, he said.

The most crucial report expected to be delivered this week is from German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who will submit results of his UN investigation into the assassination of Mr Hariri, Lebanon’s leading reformer. Diplomats expect it will implicate Syria in the killing of Mr Hariri and 19 others in a February 14 bombing, and will say Syria has not fully complied with the investigation.

The UN envoy for Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, is also scheduled to deliver a status report on resolution 1559, which was co-sponsored by the US and France last year. It calls for Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the dismantling of militias. The report is expected to say Syria has enabled the flow of illicit arms and people into Palestinian camps in Lebanon, undermining Lebanon’s stability.

The scope of any punitive action against Syria is also under discussion. The Bush Administration has considered language critical of Syria for support of terrorism, which could also be used to punish or pressure Damascus for aiding extremists in Iraq, according to several envoys.

France and other nations want the focus limited to Syria’s intervention in Lebanon, mainly to prevent an Arab backlash amid anger over the US-led invasion of Iraq.

But US, European and UN officials say Mr Assad’s Government is facing bleak prospects even in the Arab world.