(photo credit: AP)
The Hizbullah representative in Iran struck a defiant tone Monday, warning that his group plans to widen its attacks on Israel until "no place" is safe for Israelis.
"We are going to make Israel not safe for Israelis. There will be no place they are safe," Hossein Safiadeen told a conference that included the Tehran-based representative of Hamas and the ambassadors from Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Authority.
"You will see a new Middle East in the way of Hizbullah and Islam, not in the way of Rice and Israel," Safiadeen said.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Beirut on Monday while en route to Israel. Rice planned to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora about the surge in fighting along the border in the last two weeks.
Safiadeen reinforced earlier threats by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah to widen their attacks, which have included unprecedented missile strikes deep into northern Israel.
The comments by Safiadeen reflected the deep opposition within Hizbullah to the efforts to broker a truce to halt the fighting, including apparent attempts by Arab powers to pressure Syria into ending its support for Hizbullah and leave Iran as its lone major backer.
Iran and Syria are the main sources of funds and equipment for Hizbullah, which was founded in the early 1980s and took inspiration from Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Syria said Sunday it was willing to work with the US and others to press for an end to the worst Arab-Israel battles in 24 years - but set conditions that Israel is unlikely to accept, including a broader regional peace initiative that would discuss return of the Golan Heights to Syria.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia also were pushing Syria to end its support for Hizbullah fighters, Arab diplomats in Cairo said.
Safiadeen told the Associated Press he "had no news" about Syria considering withdrawing its support for Hizbullah, which touched off the crisis July 12 with a cross-border raid that captured two Israeli soldiers.
"We will expand attacks," he said. "The people who came to Israel, (they) moved there to live, not to die. If we continue to attack, they will leave."
Iran has supplied Hizbullah with long-range missiles, which have hit the port of Haifa and other places. Iran does not hide its high-level support for Hizbullah.
Among those attending Monday's conference was a top Foreign Ministry official and Gen. Mirfaisal Bagherzadeh of the powerful Revolutionary Guards.
"This war will be remembered as the beginning of the end for Israel," Safiadeen said.