A blast at a military base in Iran happened while the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) were working on a weapon research program to be used against Israel, Iran's armed forces chief of staff said Wednesday. Saturday's explosion at a military base near Tehran killed 17 IRGC members.

"The incident happened during a research program which could have become a severe punch on Israeli regime's mouth," General Hassan Firouzabadi said.

ISNA news agency quoted the general as saying that due to the incident "the program was only temporarily stopped but would resume again soon."

The general gave no details about the program and what weapons were researched - but ruled out sabotage by either Israel or the United States as being behind the blast.

Iran's parliamentary speaker on Wednesday denied press speculation that Israel was behind the blast. "Whatever the enemies say about the IRGC base incident is fiction and therefore not important," Ali Larijani told Fars news agency.

Time Magazine cited a Western intelligence official speculating that Israel was behind Saturday's blast in the ammunition depot at Malard and Shahriar base, west of Tehran.

The Revolutionary Guard said a senior commander, Gen. Hasan Moghaddam, was killed in the blast, adding that he was a key figure in Iran's missile program.

The Shahab-3 and Zelzal missiles reportedly have sufficient range to reach any part of Israel. Iran has several times warned that if its nuclear sites were attacked by Israel, the missiles would be used against the Jewish state.

While praising Moqaddam as "one of the shining members of the IRGC," speaker Larijani said that "there are tens of thousands who would continue the way of martyr Moqaddam."