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NEW YORK (AP) _ A would-be opportunist began to circle WorldCom Inc. in public Tuesday, announcing an unsolicited $5 billion bid to buy the MCI long-distance business and major Internet assets from the nearly bankrupt company.

The bid came from IDT Corp., a feisty but much smaller provider of long-distance and other communications services and the parent company of Net2Phone, an Internet-based telephone service.

There was no immediate response from Clinton, Miss.-based WorldCom, which has insisted it does not expect to start selling off its core assets amid a $4 billion accounting scandal that has sent the company spiraling toward bankruptcy.

IDT issued a statement Tuesday night saying it sent WorldCom a written proposal to acquire MCI and WorldCom's MFS and Brooks Fiber units ``for present and future consideration estimated to be $5-billion combined.''

MFS, which WorldCom paid $12 billion to acquire in 1996, operates the company's vast Internet ``backbone'' network, the world's biggest carrier of Web traffic and electronic commerce. Brooks, acquired for $2.9 billion in 1998, provides local phone service for businesses in many of the nation's major cities.

MCI, acquired in 1998 for $37 billion, is the nation's second largest consumer long-distance provider after AT&T Corp.

Last week, according to The Wall Street Journal, IDT made an informal offer to buy MFS Network for $3 billion to $4 billion. And earlier Tuesday, Dow Jones Newswires reported that IDT was interested in buying MCI for about $2 billion.

IDT recently scooped up the assets of WinStar, a relatively small wireless business that went bankrupt last year, but a high-profile failure in the collapse of the Web economy because Lucent Technologies was major backer.

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On the Net:

http://www.wcom.com

http://www.idt.net