TEHRAN - The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Sunday he hoped the Islamic republic could one day "avenge the blood of innocent people in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan".
"We have to keep this sacred hatred of the enemies of Islam alive in our hearts until the time of revenge comes," General Yahya Rahim Safavi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
"I hope our nation can one day avenge the blood of innocent people in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan," he said, adding: "I ask God to arouse the dignity of Muslims and destroy America, Israel and their associates."
His comments came the day of an Israeli strike that killed 52 people - more than half of them children - in the village of Qana, the deadliest attack in its near three-week offensive against Lebanon.
"I ask God that the crimes and atrocities of Zionists hasten the annihilation of this regime. Hezbollah and Lebanese people are invincible and this cancerous tumor... should die," he added, calling on "clerical leaders in the Islamic world (to) clarify the duty of Muslims against Israel."
The Revolutionary Guards Corps was set up in the wake of the 1979 revolution to defend the Islamic republic from "internal and external threats" and played a leading role in the 1980-88 war with Iraq. It is believed to number several hundred thousand troops.
The force is now one of Iran's most powerful institutions, and under direct command of the supreme leader.
Since Israel launched its war on Hezbollah on July 12, Tehran has stepped up its war of words with its arch-enemy.
Shiite Muslim-dominated Iran is also Hezbollah's main international supporter, although the Islamic republic insists it only provides "moral support" to the movement.
Other Iranian officials meanwhile called for US and Israeli leaders to be prosecuted for "crimes against humanity".
"The United States and the supporters of the Zionist regime are undoubtedly responsible for this savage terrorist catastrophe," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said of the Qana strike.
"The UN Security Council must stop the Zionists' crimes in Palestine and Lebanon, and put them on trial immediately for crimes against humanity," the ISNA news agency quoted him saying.
The United States, he argued, had effectively given "the green light" for the attack during an international conference in Rome on the Lebanon conflict on Wednesday.
"Zionist regime officials as well as some US statesmen should be put on trial," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also told reporters.
But he meanwhile repeated Iran's denial of allegations it is financing and arming Hezbollah.
"We have not and will not send forces to Lebanon," Asefi said. "We have not provided the Lebanese resistance with arms. We are very transparent: our aid is political and humanitarian."
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meanwhile fumed that it was "clear that international organisations have become a tool in the hand of domineering powers" -- in a fresh attack against the UN Security Council.
Iran is under mounting Security Council pressure, with the world body poised to pass a resolution demanding that Tehran suspend its controversial nuclear programme and threatening possible sanctions if it refuses.
"Britain, the planner of this sinister regime, and the US, the unconditional supporter of this regime, are both responsible," Ahmadinejad said of Western support for the "fake, illegitimate and usurper" state of Israel.