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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 06:32 GMT 07:32 UK
Plaid hopefuls face grilling
Cynog Dafis and Dafydd Iwan
Dafydd Iwan and Cynog Dafis are contesting the Plaid presidency
The race to take over at the helm of Plaid Cymru starts in earnest on Monday, amid growing calls from party members for a commitment to securing independence for Wales.

Ieuan Wyn Jones announced just after May's Welsh assembly elections that he would be stepping down as president.

Former AM and MP Cynog Dafis is trying for the post, as is current party vice-president and folk singer Dafydd Iwan are contesting the post.

Mr Jones is also facing competition to hold onto his job as leader of the party in the assembly debating chamber - AMs Helen Mary Jones and Rhodri Glyn Thomas are after the role.

Meanwhile, BBC Radio Wales has learned that delegates at the party conference later this month will re-open the vexed question of whether the party's long-term aim should be independence.

Plaid Cymru has never advocated independence - preferring to campaign for what it calls full national status, for fear of scaring off voters outside traditional nationalist heartlands.

But party insiders have revealed that many members want a strong commitment to independence, with Wales becoming a full member of the United Nations.

Ieuan Wyn Jones
Ieuan Wyn Jones hopes to keep leading Plaid in the assembly
The subject is expected to spark a lively debate at the annual conference, which starts at St David's Hall in Cardiff on 18 September - just days after the holders of the key posts are filled.

The first round of hustings for both leadership posts - at which all of the candidates will be available to answer questions - is being held at Newi college in Wrexham on Monday night.

Over the next fortnight, further meetings will be held at locations including Bangor, Blackwood, Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Swansea.

Ieuan Wyn Jones announced in May he was standing down from both roles, after Plaid lost five of the 17 seats it had won in the 1999 elections in the May 2003 poll.

But he later decided to launch a bid to keep the role of assembly group leader.

He is up against Helen Mary Jones, who represents mid and west Wales, and Rhodri Glyn Thomas, AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

However, he will hand over the presidency to either Cynog Dafis, the party's policy director, or Dafydd Iwan, depending on what party members decide.

Votes will be counted on Monday, 15 September, with all votes expected to arrive before midday on that day.

Top Plaid men reject split call
30 Aug 03  |  Wales
Storm over English race claim
08 Aug 03  |  Wales
High noon for Plaid Cymru
04 Jul 03  |  Wales
Folk singer eyes Plaid helm
20 May 03  |  Wales
AM bids for Plaid leadership
02 Jun 03  |  Wales
Plaid AM joins leadership fight
05 Jun 03  |  Wales
Plaid leader resigns
08 May 03  |  Wales

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