Iran: Explosion occurred during military research
TEHRAN (Reuters) - A massive explosion that killed 17 troops including an officer regarded as the architect of 's missile defences last week took place during research on weapons that could strike , the Islamic Republic's military chief said on Wednesday.
Iran has insisted the blast at a military base on Saturday, which rattled window and nerves in parts of the capital Tehran 45 km (28 miles) away, was an accident and denied speculation of possible sabotage by Israel or the United States.
"This recent incident and blast has no link to Israel or America but the outcome of the research, in which the incident happened as a consequence, could be a strong smack to the mouth of Israel and its occupying regime," armed forces chief of staff was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA.
Asked on Israel's Army Radio on Sunday about the scope of damage from the blast, said he did not know, but added: "May there be more like it." There was no indication that the explosion was a deliberate attack.
Iranian officials had previously said the accident happened while munitions were being moved at the base, without linking it directly to weapons research.
Brigadier General Hassan Moqaddam, hailed as the founder of Iran's missile program, was the most senior casualty.
Iran already has missiles, the Shahab-3, first tested in 1998, that it says could reach Israel, which has threatened to strike Iran's nuclear sites if diplomacy and pressure fail to stop it getting the bomb.
Iran denies its nuclear work is aimed at developing atomic weapons but doubts about that were reinforced by a report published by the United Nations nuclear agency last week, a few days before the explosion.
The U.N. report further strained Iran's relations with the West and the Iranian parliament is debating ending cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)...
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