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DENVER (AP) _ Qwest Communications International Inc. is reportedly in the early stages of trying to reach a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is investigating the company's accounting practices.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting an unnamed source, reported Thursday that the company and the agency have begun negotiations and that Qwest chief executive officer Richard Notebaert is open to a settlement as long as the SEC ``wipes the (company's) slate clean.''

The SEC refused to comment, the newspaper said.

The source told the Journal that Qwest would consider a settlement as long as it does not have to admit it committed fraud. The company has denied that its accounting errors amounted to fraud.

The SEC is investigating the way in which Qwest accounted for $1.1 billion in revenue over several years.

The company acknowledged Sunday that it discovered accounting mistakes from 1999 to 2001 and expected to restate financial results for 2000 and 2001.

Analysts widely viewed the appointment of a new chairman and chief executive, Richard Notebaert, in June as an attempt by the troubled telecom to start anew. Under former CEO Joe Nacchio, Qwest saw its stock price plummet and credit ratings drop after announcements of an SEC inquiry into the company's accounting practices.

The Justice Department also is investigating the company.