A Panamanian official said he heard a tape recording of Gen. Manuel Noriega's telephone calls from jail more than four months ago during an official visit to the United States, The Miami Herald reported Monday.

The official's account indicates tapes of Noriega's phone conversations were being shared with others long before the Cable News Network broadcast portions last week.CNN's airing of the tapes touched off a court battle over whether a news organization can be prohibited from broadcasting information in its possession.

The Supreme Court declined Sunday to review an order by U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler barring CNN from broadcasting the tapes. Hoeveler issued the order after Noriega attorney Frank Rubino said airing the tapes would reveal the contents of confidential conversations between Noreiga and his attorneys and damage his right to a fair trial.

CNN said it would abide by an order to turn over the tapes to a magistrate for review but had not yet done so Monday.

The Herald quoted the unidentified Panamanian official as saying that a person with access to the recordings played one tape for him more than four months ago in order to prove to him that Noriega was conspiring to topple the government of Panamanian President Guillermo Endara.

"They allowed me to hear one tape to show me that Noriega was conspiring," The Herald quoted the Panamanian official as saying.