U.S. Ambassador Arthur Davis, recalled for consultations with President Bush, Monday accused military leader Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega of directing his supporters to kill an opposition leader during an attack on a protest rally last week.

Davis, in a statement issued before returning to Washington, said the Panamanian military should topple Noriega, echoing a call made by Bush after the attack on the opposition rally and the annullment of last Sunday's election."What happened was a deliberate Noriega-directed attempt on the life of one of the candidates," he said. "From eyewitness reports and from the evidence of the wound suffered by the bodyguards of second vice-presidential winner Guillermo Ford, the attack was meant to kill him."

Ford and other candidates and supporters of the Civil Democratic Opposition Alliance were beaten by members of the pro-Noriega paramilitary squad during the rally Wednesday, which was called to protest fraud and violence in the election.

Davis said only "the courage and quick thinking" of Ford's bodyguards saved him. He quoted witnesses and reports of gunshot wounds suffered by Ford's bodyguards as evidence but declined to elaborate. One of Ford's bodyguards died in the attack. The government has accused Ford's bodyguards of firing on a group of Noriega supporters.