North Korea may have hit succession snag: Report

N Korea has apparently put off its biggest political gathering for 30 years.

Seoul: North Korea may have hit a snag in its move to anoint Kim Jong-Il`s youngest son as successor, being forced to delay a key party conference, a government source in Seoul was quoted as saying on Saturday.

The communist state has apparently put off its biggest political gathering for 30 years due to take place sometime in the first half of September to elect the "highest leading body" of the Workers` Party of Korea.

"There is a possibility that the issues of publicly anointing Kim Jong-Un as the heir and appointing his patrons to key positions might have not yet been sorted out," the source was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

The source also said the South Korean government had detected signs that some party delegates who had gathered in Pyongyang for the party meeting were packing up and returning home.

He noted that former US president Jimmy Carter had said that North Korea`s leader Kim Jong-Il had denied in talks with China that he would name his youngest son as his heir, as believed by many analysts.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that during a recent meeting, Kim had dismissed the prospective promotion of the son as "a false rumour from the West”, the former president said.

"This denial might be because the North has not yet reached a consensus over the expected make-up of the new leadership and the son`s official debut," the source in Seoul said.

The party conference will be closely watched for leadership and policy changes and above all for signs that Kim, 68, is preparing the ground for a power transfer to his youngest son Jong-Un, who is in his late 20s.

South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-Taek said on Wednesday the delay may be due to floods or various other reasons. "There might be some internal reasons but our government needs accurate information to confirm," he said.

Senior officials have reportedly told international agencies in Pyongyang that the ruling communist party conference has been delayed because of storm damage.

Bureau Report

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