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Mar 31, 11:55 AM EDT

Israeli premier: Nuclear deal will 'pave the way' for Iran


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JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's prime minister criticized the deal expected to emerge from nuclear talks in Switzerland on Tuesday, saying it will "pave the way" for Iran to have the ability to build an atomic bomb in little time.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his criticism at a ceremony welcoming the incoming members of Israel's new parliament. Netanyahu has been a vocal critic of the negotiations between Iran and six world powers, led by the U.S., saying the expected deal would fail to keep the Islamic Republic's suspect nuclear intentions in check.

Accusing Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapon, Netanyahu said the emerging deal would leave intact much of Iran's nuclear infrastructure, including underground research facilities, a plutonium reactor and advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium.

"Iran's breakout time to have the tools to make a nuclear weapon won't be years, as was said in the beginning," he said. "In our estimate, it will be reduced to perhaps a year, most likely much less than that."

After six days of marathon talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, Iran and the world powers were expected to issue a general statement later Tuesday agreeing to continue the negotiations in hopes of reaching a final deal by the end of June.

Netanyahu's criticism has raised tensions with the United States, Israel's closest and most important ally. Earlier this month, he infuriated the White House by giving a speech to the U.S. Congress railing against the expected deal.

Netanyahu tried to play down the tensions, saying that Israel values its alliance with the U.S. and that "even close relatives" sometimes have disagreements.

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