The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had based its information on passenger lists containing names similar to the names of suspected members of the al-Qaida network, a ministry spokesman said.

"A check was carried out in each case and in each case it turned out to be negative," the spokesman said.

"The FBI worked with family names and some family names sound alike," he added.

He noted that some of the names had been transliterated from Arabic, which uses a different alphabet from French and English.

"The difficulty is compounded when you have no first name or date of birth," the spokesman said.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that one of the suspects named by the FBI was a child whose name happened to be the same as a wanted 'terrorist' from Tunisia.

The others on the list were an elderly Chinese lady who had at one time run a restaurant in Paris, an insurance salesman from Wales and three French nationals, the paper said.

The French government had agreed after 48 hours of talks with US officials to cancel three flights between Paris and Los Angeles as well as the three return legs on 24 and 25 December.

The FBI said its information showed that al-Qaida activists planned to hijack an Air France plane and crash it in California.

No evidence

A French police spokesman said that "not the slightest physical or personal evidence" was uncovered as a result of the FBI's information into the Air France flights.

"No one was detained, no one was questioned and nothing was seized," he said.

The cancellations had come amid heightened fears of a 'terror' attack over the Christmas period.

The US on 21 December stepped up its national security alert to Code Orange which warns of a "high risk of terrorist attacks".

On Thursday, British Airways cancelled one of its three daily flights from London to Washington.

Aeromexico's daily flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles was cancelled for a second day in a row because of security concerns.

Washington has also called for armed sky marshals to be deployed on foreign flights thought to be at risk.