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Sun 26 Oct 2008 12:09 AM

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Hezbollah chief denies report he was poisoned

Nasrullah says reports on Iraqi website are part of a campaign of 'psychological warfare'. 

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday denied an Iraqi website report that he had been poisoned and then saved by Iranian doctors, calling it "psychological warfare" against his group.

"This information is totally unfounded," the head of Lebanon's powerful Shi'ite militant group said in an interview broadcast on Hezbollah's Manar television.

"I am sitting here in front of you... There was no poisoning. It is pure fabrication," he said.

Nasrallah said the report could have been "part of the psychological war" against Hezbollah aimed at alleging that there are internal divisions within the Syria- and Iran-backed group.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi Internet website Al-Malaf reported that Nasrallah had survived an assassination bid in which he was poisoned with a "highly toxic chemical substance".

Nasrallah, 48, was in "critical condition over the past few days," Al-Malaf said, quoting diplomatic sources in Beirut. It said his life was saved by Iranian doctors who rushed to his side.

"A 15-member Iranian medical time flew to Beirut with all the necessary equipment to save his life," Al-Malaf said.

Nasrallah rarely appears in public because of fears for his security.

The United States and its regional ally Israel consider Hezbollah a terrorist organisation responsible for many attacks on Westerners and Israelis.

In September, a Lebanese military tribunal cleared 12 people of plotting to assassinate Nasrallah in 2006, citing a lack of sufficient evidence.

In April 2006 - three months before the devastating summer war between Israel and Hezbollah - the Lebanese paper Al-Safir reported that the 12 had plotted to assassinate Nasrallah on his way to national reconciliation talks.

Nasrallah was elected secretary-general of Hezbollah in 1992, after an Israeli helicopter gunship killed his predecessor Abbas Al-Musawi in southern Lebanon.

His eldest son Hadi was killed in a Hezbollah military operation against Israeli troops in southern Lebanon in 1997.

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