A ministerial committee is looking into formally dropping public beheadings as a method of execution in Saudi Arabia, a local newspaper has reported.

The authoritative daily Al-Watan said in its Sunday edition that the ministerial committee was considering fatal shootings as an alternative.

There was no official confirmation immediately available of the newspaper's report.

There have been calls in the kingdom for replacing public beheadings with lethal injections carried out in prisons.

The kingdom executes anyone convicted of murder, armed robbery, rape and trafficking in drugs.

It has executed 15 people so far this year, 76 last year and 79 in 2011.

Currently death sentences are carried out by beheading in a public square in the oil-rich kingdom.

Source: Agencies