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Tehran 'conditionally willing to accept new nuclear constraints'

Sources familiar with talks on Iran's nuclear program say Tehran may accept sharper curbs on it if they are of shorter duration. Israel has meanwhile again slammed the proposed deal.

Iran is prepared to accept sharper curbs on its nuclear program if they are not imposed for too long, well-informed sources in Tehran said on Sunday.

The sources said Tehran could agree to operate only some 6,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment as against the around 10,000 currently in operation, if the limitation were to tend toward the lower end of the 8-15 year range that is being discussed.

Their comments come as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

holds talks in Lausanne, Switzerland,

with several international counterparts in a bid to hammer out a preliminary deal by a self-imposed Tuesday deadline.

The deal, to be finalized by the end of June, would see Tehran cutting back its nuclear activities - which many Western countries fear are aimed at creating atomic weapons - in return for the scrapping of economic sanctions.

In view of the Tuesday deadline,

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

has called on all parties at the talks to make a final big effort, saying that the last stretch was "the hardest, but the most decisive."

Main stumbling block

The questions of how long the externally imposed restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities should last, and how quickly sanctions can be lifted, have turned out to be the thorniest issues to be resolved at the talks, which involve Germany, France, China, the United States, Great Britain and Russia in addition to Iran.

Iran is calling for the curbs to be lifted completely after 10 years, while the other parties at the talks propose reducing the caps gradually after the 10-year period has elapsed.

The aim of the US and its allies is to extend the time Iran would need to make a nuclear weapon from the current two to three months to at least a year.

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear program serves only civilian purposes.

'Dangerous accord'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has meanwhile reiterated his complete opposition to the proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanjahu REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool

Netanyahu fears a nuclear-armed Iran

"The dangerous accord which is being negotiated in Lausanne confirms our concerns and even worse," Netanyahu told his cabinet in remarks broadcast on public radio.

He denounced what he called the "Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis, which is dangerous for all of humanity and which must be stopped," an allusion to the conflict in Yemen, where Iran is thought to be backing Shiite Houthi rebels who have taken control of the capital, Sanaa, and swathes of territory in the country's north.

The right-wing prime minister, who won a fourth term in a March 17 election, has often expressed his opposition to making a deal with Iran, saying Tehran poses a danger to the entire Middle East.

tj/sb (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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