UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran is providing Hezbollah militants with financing, training and sophisticated weaponry in an attempt to transform Lebanon into an "outpost for terror," Israel's U.N. ambassador said on Monday.
Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah claimed responsibility last week for the launch of an unmanned drone which Israel shot down earlier this month after it flew 25 miles into the Jewish state, saying the aircraft's parts were manufactured in Iran and assembled in Lebanon.
"Iran has provided Hezbollah with the funds, training and advanced weapons to hijack the Lebanese state and transform it into an outpost for terror," Ambassador Ron Prosor told a U.N. Security Council debate on the situation in the Middle East.
"One does not need any further evidence that Hezbollah is a direct proxy of the Iranian regime," he told the 15-nation council. "Hezbollah's continued provocations could have devastating consequences for the region."
Tensions have increased in the Middle East with Israel threatening to bomb the nuclear sites of Hezbollah's patron Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop Iranian nuclear activity the West says is meant to develop a weapons capability. Tehran says it is seeking only civilian nuclear energy.
Iran has threatened in turn to strike at U.S. military bases in the Middle East and retaliate against Israel if attacked.
Indirectly taking a swipe at the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah's traditional stronghold, Prosor said the group has amassed significant military capabilities in recent years.
"I know that there is no shortage of those willing to express their 'commitment to Israel's security' in these halls," Prosor said.
"Yet displays of commitment to Israel's security have been difficult to find over the past six years as Hezbollah has turned southern Lebanon into one giant storage facility for 50,000 missiles."
Hezbollah, a powerful Shi'ite Muslim militant and political group backed by Syria and Iran, was established with the help of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps after Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
Hezbollah last fought Israel in 2006 during a 34-day war in which 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed.
(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; editing by Mohammad Zargham)