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North Korea to Elect New Communist Leaders

North Korea's ruling communist party has called a rare meeting to elect a new leadership team.

Some analysts believe the party conference will confirm the status of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's youngest son, Kim Jong-Un, as his eventual successor.

The political bureau of the Korean communist party's central committee announced Saturday that the meeting in September will elect the party's "highest leading body." This would be the first conference of the Workers Party of Korea since 1966; the last large-scale party meeting, a convention in 1980, awarded a leadership role to Kim Jong Il and set him on the path to succeed his father, Kim Il-Sung, who died in 1994.

Saturday's announcement follows recent military appointments that some analysts have interpreted as another sign that Kim Jong Il, who is 68 and in poor health, may be grooming his third son to succeed him.

Earlier this month, Mr. Kim's brother-in-law and close aide, Jang Song-Thaek, was promoted to vice-chairmanship of the powerful National Defense Commission.

North Korea's weak economy is believed to have declined even further in the past year, due to poor harvests and U.N. sanctions that sharply cut back the communist country's once-lucrative arms trade. Pyongyang also has faced mounting political pressure due to its failure to admit responsibility for the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in March, which killed more than 45 sailors and raised tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula to new heights.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.