updated 11/2/2006 6:32:34 AM ET 2006-11-02T11:32:34

The United States on Wednesday said it saw signs that Syria, Iran and Hezbollah militants were trying to topple the Lebanese government and warned them to keep their “hands off.”

White House spokesman Tony Snow said in a statement that the United States believed one of Syria’s aims was to prevent the Lebanese government from setting up a tribunal to try those accused of involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“Support for a sovereign, democratic, and prosperous Lebanon is a key element of U.S. policy in the Middle East,” Snow said.

“We are therefore increasingly concerned by mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments, Hezbollah, and their Lebanese allies are preparing plans to topple Lebanon’s democratically elected government led by Prime Minister (Fouad) Siniora,” he added.

The White House issued its statement a day after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gave Siniora’s ruling coalition, which has an anti-Syrian bent, until mid-November to agree on the formation of a unity government or face protests demanding new elections.

In a briefing with reporters, Snow declined to cited evidence of the U.S. accusations, saying the information was classified.

The United States has held up Lebanon as an example of emerging democracy in the Middle East.

“And if you have the example of a stable democracy that’s able to fend off terror — in the case of Lebanon, from Hezbollah — then you have an opportunity to create an entirely different set of circumstances in the Middle East,” Snow said.

“We’re making it clear to everybody in the region that we think that there ought to be hands off the Siniora government; let them go about and do their business,” he added.

The White House statement said any attempts to destabilize the Lebanese government would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

He also said that any effort to “sideline” a tribunal on Hariri’s death would fail because “the international community can proceed with establishing it no matter what happens internally in Lebanon.”

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