Iran VP: Iranians Are Friends of All People - Even Israelis

Esfandiar Rahim Mashai made similar comments in July, as tensions rise over Iran's nuclear row.

Iran's vice president has said the Iranians are friends of all people in the world - even Israelis, Tehran state media reported on Monday.

It's a rare comment from a government official in Iran, whose president regularly calls for Israel's destruction.

Several newspapers and the official Web site of Iran's tourism agency on Monday attributed the comment to Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashai.

Mashai is in charge of Iranian tourism and historical sites.

It is believed to be the first time an official Iranian government Web site has carried an expression of sympathy by an Iranian vice president toward Israelis.

In late July, Mashai made similar comments, saying: "Iran wants no war with any country, and today Iran is friend of the United States and even Israel.... Our achievements belong to the whole world and should be used for expanding love and peace."

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prompted international criticism when he said in 2005 that he believed Israel should be wiped off the map.