South Korea 'poisoning' claim

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The Independent Online

South Korea has rejected claims by North Korea that it poisoned its players before last week's 2010 World Cup qualifier in Seoul, as tensions mounted over the North's long-range rocket launch on Sunday.

A North Korean statement on Sunday called the alleged poisoning "a product of [South Korean President] Lee Myung-bak's moves for confrontation with the DPRK [North Korea] and a deliberate behaviour bred by the unsavoury forces instigated by it". It also accused the match's Omani referee of bias, adding: "The match thus turned into a theatre of plot-breeding and swindling."

In Wednesday's Group Two qualifier, South Korea scored with three minutes remaining to win 1-0, with the visitors furious that Jong Tae-se's earlier header, which appeared to have crossed the line, was ruled out.

The Korea Football Association's president Cho Chung-yun, who is also a vice-president for football's world governing body Fifa, rejected the North's demands for an apology over the alleged poisoning and said no further action was needed.

"North Korea decided on everything, including accommodation, and we were never involved in the process," he told local media. "It's not a matter to investigate."

The North Korean statement came amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula surrounding Sunday's launch of a long-range rocket. South Korea's Foreign Minister, Yoo Myung-hwan, called the launch a "provocative act" that threatened peace and stability in the region. The move also prompted an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, which had not agreed on a response yesterday.

South Korea lead their World Cup qualifying group on 11 points, followed by North Korea and Saudi Arabia on 10 points. The top two automatically qualify for South Africa 2010.