North Korea releases pictures of ailing dictator

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea has released new photographs of leader Kim Jong Il. The pictures come at a time of intense speculation over the health of the communist country's absolute ruler.

The 66-year-old Kim reportedly suffered a stroke and underwent brain surgery in August. North Korea has denied he is ill and has in recent weeks released news reports, photos and footage portraying its leader as active and able.

On Sunday, state TV showed undated still photos of what it said is Kim watching a soccer match between two army teams and talking with people.

Speculation on Kim's health flared after he missed a key national parade marking North Korea's 60th birthday in September.

Kim has not publicly named any successors, leading to concerns about an uncertain future in the impoverished, nuclear-armed country.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)