Al Qaeda suspects "had organized for extensive terrorist operations on Iranian territory which were discovered and foiled, thanks to security forces," Hasan Rowhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying in the government-owned, Farsi-language daily Iran.
Rowhani, whose council is Iran's highest decision-making body, did not specify the targets or when the planned attacks were foiled. He also did not say if any arrests had been made.
Last week, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said his country might try some al Qaeda operatives in its custody who have committed crimes in Iran. The spokesman gave no further details.
Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi confirmed for the first time last month that Iran was holding "a large number of small and big-time elements of al Qaeda." Iran has not identified any of the detainees, citing security reasons.
U.S. officials have said intelligence suggests that al Qaeda figures in Iran include Saif al-Adl, a top al Qaeda agent possibly connected to May 12 suicide bombings in the Saudi capital; Abu Mohammed al-Masri, wanted in connection with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and Saad bin Laden, the son of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The United States accuses Iran of harboring terrorists, a charge Iran denies. Iranian officials have said without elaboration that they believe al Qaeda is hostile toward Iran.
Al Qaeda is Sunni Muslim, while Iran is dominated by the minority Shiite sect of Islam. Many analysts believed tradition and sectarian differences keep Sunni and Shiite extremists from working closely together, despite shared anti-American ideologies.