N.Korean foreign delegate dismisses succession reports

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A Spaniard who acts as a delegate overseas for North Korea said Thursday he did not believe reports that a communist party meeting next week will pave the way to a transfer of power from leader Kim Jong-Il to his son.

North Korea is preparing for its biggest political meeting for decades on September 28, widely expected to set Kim Jong-Il's youngest son, Jong-Un, on the path to supreme leadership.

"How foolish it would be to vote or appoint a person as leader of a country that is a complete stranger. This is complete rubbish, it is nonsense," Alejandro Cao de Benos, a special delegate for North Korea's Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, told AFP.

"Everyone is talking about Kim Jong-Un and nobody knows who he is in Pyongyang. I have never read about Kim Jong-Un, I have never seen a picture of this man and I say none of my colleagues in the ministries knows who is this man," he added.

Cao de Benos, 36, a Spanish national, has since 2000 operated North Korea's official web page and his responsibilities include acting as a spokesman for the Asian country's government in the West.

He said he is the only foreigner to work for the North Korean government.

A lifelong communist, he previously served two years in Spanish army before becoming an IT consultant. He now holds a North Korean passport.

The meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea had been scheduled for early September but it was postponed without explanation from Pyongyang.

It will be the first major gathering of the Workers' Party of Korea since a congress in 1980 confirmed Kim as successor to his own father and founding president Kim Il-Sung, who died in 1994.

Cao de Beno said Kim Jong-Il had worked together with his father for years and was known to the people of North Korea when he assumed office, unlike the situation with Kim Jong-Un who has no government experience.

"Kim Jong-Il is the son of Kim Il-Sung, it happened one time and was the will of the people who wanted him to continue but because he had taken part in the war, he was together with the leader and all the soldiers and everyone loved him," he said in a reference to the Korean war.

"And he had the capacity to prevent the USA from invading North Korea by means of developing a nuclear weapon. He had demonstrated very clearly his miltary capabilities all his life, then the people trusted him to be their leader."

The Korea Central News Agency has said that the meeting of the ruling communist party will be "for electing its supreme leadership body".

The conference is expected to put a new leadership line-up in place, spell out possible policy shifts and give top party posts to Jong-Un's supporters, such as the senior Kim's powerful brother-in-law Jang Song-Thaek.

Kim Jong-Il, 68, suffered a stroke in August 2008 and has visibly aged since then. Some reports say he also has kidney problems that require dialysis.

© 2010 AFP

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