WASHINGTON - Sen. Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused the United Nations of being ''weak-kneed'' for excluding the Dalai Lama from a conference of religious leaders from around the world.
''I am upset,'' Helms, R-N.C., said in a letter Thursday to Richard Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the world body.
More than 1,000 religious leaders have been invited to the Millennium World Peace Summit on U.N. property this month, but the Tibetan Buddhist leader was left out for fear of offending China.
''Mr. Ambassador, can it be that the United Nations has chosen to appease the Communist dictators in Beijing - who drove the Dalai Lama into exile in the first place and who continue to oppress the Tibetan people - rather than include one of the world's most known and respected spiritual leaders?'' Helms wrote.
''Surely you share my dismay that the organizers of a 'world peace summit' would choose to exclude a Nobel Peace Prize winner.''
The Dalai Lama, who was awarded the 1989 Nobel, fled Tibet in 1959 with thousands of supporters after a failed revolt against Chinese rule of the mountain region.
The United Nations is not an official sponsor of the summit, which has received funding from Ted Turner's U.N. Foundation, Better World Fund and others and was organized by a coalition of interfaith leaders.
But the first two days of the summit will be held in the U.N. General Assembly chamber, and a U.N. official advised organizers that China would be outraged if the Tibetan spiritual leader was invited.
Organizers asked the Dalai Lama to attend the last two days of the conference and to give the concluding speech - all scheduled at a New York hotel, away from the United Nations. He declined.
The gathering, scheduled for Aug. 28-31, will bring together leaders of religious groups worldwide to discuss conflicts and initiate religiously based efforts to resolve them.
Holbrooke's office didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
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