Black Sabbath guitarist TONY IOMMI has broken his silence about the band's bust-up with former drummer Bill Ward, revealing he gave up on his old pal's contractual issues when he was diagnosed with cancer.

The rocker admits he was in negotiations with Ward over plans to bring all four original members of the group back together for a reunion album and tour when he discovered he was sick - and decided he didn't have the time to persuade the drummer to set aside management issues and return.

Ward has maintained that he turned down the chance to hook up with Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler because he wasn't offered a contract he was willing to sign, and now the guitarist reveals he eventually had to accept the band would need to find an alternative drummer.

Iommi tells Guitar World magazine, "Once I heard 'cancerous lymphoma', I thought, 'That's it. I've had it'. We waited a long time for Bill and we wanted to sort it out. But at the end of the day, especially after I was diagnosed, I thought, 'F**king hell, that's it. We've got to get a move on. I might pop off (die) next year!'

"So I emailed him and said, 'Bill, we can't wait any longer. We've got to get a move on with it'. And that was it."

Osbourne also recently spoke out about Ward's reunion stand-off, insisting his decision not to return to the band was Ok with him because the frontman had lost faith in his drumming skills.

Osbourne told Mojo magazine, "I guess it's to do with finances or something... But there was also another side to it. When Bill came along we all had to ask, 'Can he do an hour-and-a-half, two-hour gig? Can he cope?' My suggestion was that we run through a set and see how he got on because he was so out of condition and the drummer is the most demanding job in the whole band.

"We looked at Bill and he couldn't remember what the f**k we were doing. But he didn't come clean and say, 'I can't cut this gig but can we work something out, guys, where I'll come on but with another drummer backing me up?' Or, 'I'll come and play a few songs', that would have been cool."

Instead, he was replaced by Tommy Clufetos.