The wife of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak dismissed rumors of her husband's ill health and called for gossip-mongers to be punished, in an exclusive interview with Al-Arabiya News Channel on Sunday.
"The president's activities have not stopped… His health is excellent and he is as active as ever," Suzanne Mubarak told Arab satellite TV channel Al-Arabiya.
Recent rumors about 79-year-old Mubarak's health have included his hospitalization, travel abroad for medical treatment and even death, prompting him to make an unannounced visit to an industrial zone near his summer home on the Mediterranean coast in a bid to dispel the speculation.
"I'm bemused as to who would benefit from spreading these rumors that make the public confused," Suzanne Mubarak said, calling for those responsible to be punished.
Mubarak, Egypt's longest-serving ruler since Mohamed Ali Pasha in the 19th century, is serving a fifth six-year term as president.
Many Egyptians suspect the president's 44-year old son, Gamal Mubarak, will succeed him, but the Mubarak family has denied any succession plans.
For the past week, Egyptian opposition and independent newspapers have raised the possibility of the president falling ill after he missed some regularly scheduled meetings, including one with university students.
Mubarak also postponed a trip to inspect projects in the southern province of Sohag, scheduled for Sunday.
The president cancelled the trip on Saturday because the projects there were not ready, an official source told Reuters.
Mubarak's live appearance on state television examining a project in Burg el-Arab on the north coast last week failed to end speculation.
Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for more than a quarter of a century, underwent surgery for a slipped disc in 2004 and suffered a minor health scare while delivering a televised speech the year before.
Government sources accused the opposition Muslim Brotherhood of spreading rumors that Mubarak was ill, independent daily Al Masry Al Youm reported on Sunday.
The Muslim Brotherhood won a fifth of the seats in parliament in 2005. The government has launched a fresh crackdown on the Islamist group to prevent it from posing a serious challenge to Mubarak.
(The interview airs in full on Al Arabiya TV on Sunday morning and evening).