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By ESPN Staff

South Korea reject North Korea poisoning claim

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 statement carried by North Korea's official news agency KCNA on Sunday called the alleged poisoning "a product of (South Korean President) Lee Myung-bak group'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 beat the North 1-0, with the visitors furious that Jong Tae-se's second-half header, which appeared to have crossed the line, was ruled out by the referee.

Kim Joo-sung, (South) Korean Football Association (KFA) international affairs chief, said the accusations were politically motivated and baseless.

"The statement sets a high political tone, not about the sport itself. There's no need to respond to it," Kim was quoted as saying by South Korean news agency Yonhap on Monday.

"If an accident happens during training or transit, and it affects the match, the host country should take responsibility for the accident.

"But matters related to hotels or the food are the responsibility of the visiting team."

The North Korean statement came amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula surrounding Sunday's launch of a long-range rocket, which triggered international outrage and prompted the U.N. security Council to call an emergency meeting.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yoo Myung-hwan said the launch was a "provocative act" that threatened peace and stability.

KFA president Cho Chung-yun, who is also a vice-president for soccer'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," local media quoted him as saying. "It's not a matter to investigate."

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


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