Iran rejects demands in nuclear talks

Israel has warned it could bomb nuclear sites if it deems diplomacy incapable of reining in Tehran.

Iran told six big powers on Friday it would not accept their "excessive demands" . Picture: AFP.

VIENNA - Iran told six big powers on Friday it would not accept their "excessive demands" after the latest talks on lifting sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work yielded no breakthrough, with a deadline for a deal looming.

Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany are striving for a comprehensive settlement by 20 July that would defuse fears of a new Middle East war over a dispute that has stoked geo-strategic tensions for a decade.

A six-month extension was mooted, but this would raise jitters since Israel has warned it could bomb Iranian nuclear sites if it deems diplomacy incapable of reining in Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif highlighted the stubborn gulf between the sides, urging the six nations to "abandon excessive demands which will not be accepted by Iran".

"Still we have not overcome disputes about major issues," Zarif said as five days of negotiations in Vienna wound up. "There has been progress, but major disputes remain."

He made clear there was no agreement yet between Iran and the six on a draft text of an agreement. A senior Chinese official said the two sides had put together a "textual framework", though gave no details.

"The fact that (we came up) with this text is progress ... in procedural terms," China's Wang Qun said.

Diplomats from the six powers told Reuters earlier in the week that one of the most difficult issues in the talks was the number of centrifuges Tehran will be allowed to keep to enrich uranium under any deal.

Western officials said the six powers want this number to be in the low thousands to prevent any Iranian dash to a nuclear bomb-making capability.

So far, diplomats said, Russia and China - traditionally more accommodating of Iran's nuclear stance - backed up the US and European demands on Tehran's centrifuge programme.

A senior diplomat from one of the major powers said all six were united in their positions on the permissible scope of Iran's enrichment programme and that they had presented "pretty detailed" proposals on that issue.