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Leaders gather for N Korea meeting

Delegates to North Korea's biggest political meeting in decades were gathering in the country's capital amid speculation that leader Kim Jong Il is to appoint one of his sons and other family members to key positions as part of a succession plan.

The official Korean Central News Agency announced last week that the ruling Workers' Party would hold a conference on Tuesday to select its "supreme leadership body" after having initially said in June that the event would be held in early September. KCNA gave no explanation for the delay.

Party delegates to the conference arrived at Pyongyang's railway station on Sunday in sunny, breezy weather, footage shot by video news service APTN in the North Korean capital showed.

The city was festooned with flags and placards announcing the meeting.

"Warm congratulations to the representatives meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea!" read one poster.

North Korea's state news agency carried a brief dispatch on Sunday about the arrival of delegates but gave no details about the meeting itself.

Rodong Sinmun, the North's leading newspaper, ran an article praising the party and emphasising its loyalty to the country's leader.

"The WPK remains so strong as its ranks are made up of ardent loyalists who unhesitatingly dedicate their lives to devotedly defending the headquarters of the revolution, sharing idea and intention and fate with the leader," said the article, carried by KCNA.

The widely anticipated meeting will be the party's first major gathering since a landmark congress in 1980 where then 38-year-old Kim Jong Il made his political debut. That appearance confirmed he was in line to succeed his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.

Kim Jong Il eventually took control when his father died of heart failure in 1994 in what was the communist world's first hereditary transfer of power.

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