Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr said Tuesday that secret U.S.-Iranian negotiations have been under way since February and were stepped up in the past two weeks in an effort to secure the release of hostages in Lebanon.

"There are secret negotiations going on regarding four problems--the Iran-Iraq war, the role of the Iranian government in the region, international terrorism and especially the American hostages. " Bani Sadr said in a telephone interview from his home outside Paris, where he has been in exile since 1981.Bani Sadr, who was dismissed as president in 1981 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said the discussion had been going on since February and had focused on thehostages issue during the past two weeks.

He said he had also received a report from an Iranian, whom he refused to identify, that an envoy of Vice President George Bush met secretly with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Larijani in Switzerland to discuss the release of American hostages.

But the former president said he has been unable to confirm that report with his regular Iranian sources.