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Was the Britney-to-Namibia Story a Hoax?

June 17, 2006

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ A Namibian tourism official said Saturday he may have been duped into believing that Britney Spears was considering having her baby in Namibia.

Deputy Environment and Tourism Minister Leon Jooste said he made his original public statement after receiving a phone call from the United States on Monday.

``Somebody told me that she (Spears) is interested in coming to Namibia and that they would contact me in the next two weeks,″ he said Saturday.

But the connection was so bad, he said, that he never got a name or contact information for the person.

Still, Jooste went public with the information.

``She has shown interest to come over to Namibia,″ he said at the time. ``Nothing has been confirmed yet, but there is a definite possibility of that happening.″

That prompted Spears’ New York-based publicist, Leslie Sloane Zelnik, to send an e-mail to The Associated Press on Friday saying: ``Not true.″

Asked if the call might have been a hoax, Jooste said: ``It is really possible.″

Jooste, who is vacationing in neighboring South Africa, said he plans to look into the matter when he returns to Namibia next week.

``I am actually going to call and invite them to see if they would like to come,″ he said.

Spears, 24, is expecting her second child with husband and aspiring rapper Kevin Federline. The pop star, who has taken a beating in the tabloids recently over her parenting skills, might appreciate the privacy Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie enjoyed when their daughter, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, was born last month in the southwest African nation.

The Namibian government shielded the Hollywood couple from the paparazzi, even insisting that foreign journalists wanting to cover the story must first obtain written permission from the couple to get visas.

``We have a little niche tourism market that we are developing now,″ Jooste said, adding jokingly that he might ``resign and start a company marketing celebrity holidays in Africa.″

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