Syria will support Hizbullah and Lebanon against Israel's attacks on the country, the ruling Baath Party said on Friday, defying Israel and its chief ally Washington.
"The Syrian people are ready to extend full support to the Lebanese people and their heroic resistance to remain steadfast and confront the barbaric Israeli aggression and its crimes," said a communique from the party's national command issued after a meeting.
It said Israel and the United States "are trying to wipe out Arab resistance in every land under occupation" and that President Bashar al-Assad was aware of the seriousness of the situation in the region.
The national command is the highest echelon of the Baath Party, which has been in power since 1963. Assad, who is shaped by his late father's lifetime of struggle with Israel, was not at the meeting.
He has resisted Israeli and American pressure to abandon support for Hizbullah.
The European Union has expressed concern that the confrontation between Hizbollah and Israel could spread to Syria and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi talked with President Bashar al-Assad over the phone on Friday.
It was the first such high-level contact between the Syrian leader and a Western official since last year's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, which worsened Syria's relations with Europe.
Diplomats in Damascus said Syria was confident it would emerge from the crisis with a stronger position compared with the isolation it has been under since the Lebanese-Saudi billionaire turned politician was killed.
"The situation is dangerous but look at how many people are contacting Syria now," one Western diplomat said. "Damascus is back as a main player."