IRNA quoted Tehran's ambassador to Saudi Arabia as saying that the al-Qaida members had been arrested in Iran after the United States-led invasion on Afghanistan.

 

But it did not name them, or say how many had been extradited or when they had been handed over to Saudi Arabia.

   

The envoy, speaking to IRNA on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran, said Iran and Saudi Arabia had signed a security pact and "have shown a firm resolve to improve ties in all areas", the BBC said.

 

Foiled

   

Last Sunday IRNA quoted Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, as saying that Iran had foiled a number of attacks al-Qaida had been planning to carry out on its soil.

   

"Their (al-Qaida's) plans for a wide range of terrorist acts inside Iran were neutralised by our intelligence organisations," IRNA quoted Rohani as saying, though he gave no details.

   

Tehran has said it has arrested a number of al-Qaida members, including some senior figures in Usama bin Ladin's organisation. But it has declined to name them and has refused to hand them over to US officials for questioning.

  

"Their (al-Qaida's) plans for a wide range of terrorist acts inside Iran were neutralised by our intelligence organisations"

Iranian news agency IRNA

Iran has also acknowledged that its extensive eastern border with Afghanistan is hard to police and some al- Qaida members may have been able to slip into the country undetected.

   

Intelligence sources and media reports suggest Iran may be holding Sa'ad bin Ladin, a son of the al-Qaida leader, the network’s security chief Egyptian Saif al-Adel and its Kuwaiti-born spokesman Sulayman Abu Ghaith, among others.

   

Iran says that in the past year it has arrested and deported around 500 al-Qaida suspects who sought refuge across its borders from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

Although a staunch political enemy of Washington, largely-Shia Iran condemned the 11 September attacks and was fiercely opposed to the rule of al-Qaida's former sponsors, the Taliban, in neighbouring Afghanistan.