Tehran proposed to swap al-Qaida leaders for members of the Iranian People's Mujahideen opposition group, the German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported in its edition to be published on Sunday.

  

Quoting "German and Iranian intelligence services", the paper said Iran wanted the deal to be kept secret and to include its own removal from Washington's "axis of evil" list of countries.

 

But US authorities "did not take them seriously", the paper said, despite receiving several such offers, some using Germany as an intermediary, between October 2002 and February this year,   

 

On one occasion in November 2002, an Iranian representative is reported to have offered to deliver 12 al-Qaida leaders to a western embassy in Tehran, from where they could be flown straight to Washington.

  

The German weekly also reported that Iranian intelligence had intercepted three telephone conversations between Usama bin Ladin and other al-Qaida members over the past two weeks.

 

Al-Qaida detainees in Iran would stand trial "if it turns out they have carried out violent acts against Iranian national security"

Kamal Kharazi, Iranian Foreign Minister

The interceptions reportedly failed to confirm the whereabouts of bin Ladin, believed to be hiding somewhere near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  

Iranian authorities claim to have arrested and extradited members of al-Qaida since September 2001.

  

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi recently said that al-Qaida detainees in Iran would stand trial "if it turns out they have carried out violent acts against Iranian national security".

  

According to various sources, al-Qaida members still in Iranian custody include Salman Abu Ghaith, wanted by the United States as one of the group's suspected ringleaders.

  

Following Kharazi's recent visit to Kuwait, a Kuwaiti newspaper Al Anbaa reported that the country could act as an intermediary between Tehran and Washington over the issue of al-Qaida prisoners.