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She's still on sabbatical, but singing superstar Celine Dion is still in the news, this time suing a Quebec weekly for $5-million, saying it failed to retract a gossip column that recycled rumours that she likes to sunbathe topless.

The story initially appeared in an American tabloid, The Star, and was also picked up by the National Post, which escaped litigation because it later issued a retraction.

"The items reported in The Star, the National Post and [the Quebec weekly]are absolutely false," Ms. Dion's husband and manager, René Angelil, said in an affidavit.

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"The remarks made in those articles are defamatory and outrageous towards me and towards Celine Dion and hurt our image and reputation."

His sworn statement is part of a statement of claim filed yesterday in Quebec Superior Court against the publishers of the weekly Allô-Vedettes and against gossip columnist Michel Girouard.

The statement of claim says that The Star falsely claimed that Ms. Dion likes to bare her chest when she goes swimming in the pool of her Florida home, and that while visiting Las Vegas, the couple paid $5,000 a day for private access to a pool at Caesars Palace hotel.

"They blocked off the pool so Celine could whip off her bikini top and soak up the sun, while daring René dropped his trunks to swim completely nude!" wrote The Star, according to court documents.

The statement of claim says that the National Post then picked up the same information in its May 17 edition, reporting: "Where the motherly chanteuse is concerned, itsy bitsy teeny weeny is never quite itsy bitsy teeny weeny enough. Celine, it seems, has a thing for going au naturel by the pool at the Florida mansion.

In fact, she even took the show on the road when she stayed recently at Caesars Palace."

Allô-Vedettes also ran an article about Ms. Dion's alleged toplessness.

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"I don't see why it should be an attack on their reputation to say they swam naked in a swimming pool," the weekly's lawyer, Claude Archambault, said yesterday.

The statement of claim says that, unlike the Post, the Quebec weekly did not outright retract its story when it received a letter from the singer's lawyers, choosing instead to publish a clarification.

"The defendants acted in bad faith," the statement of claim says.

No statement of defence has been filed.

Publishers Amylitho Inc. could not be reached for comment.

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