TOKYO – Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has pulled out of a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners that starts Friday in Japan due to poor health.
Gorbachev, who was the last president of the Soviet Union and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his part in ending the Cold War, has been told by doctors he cannot travel internationally due to his condition, said Pio d'Emilia, a spokesman for the gathering. The specifics of his health were not immediately clear.
The annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates brings past award recipients together to call attention to their achievements and work, as well as push the prize's overall message of human rights and nonviolence.
This year's gathering begins Friday in Hiroshima, in southwestern Japan, and will focus on nuclear non-proliferation.
Gorbachev, 79, was one of five Nobel peace laureates who signed a letter calling on President Barack Obama to attend this year's meeting and give fresh momentum to his call for a world without nuclear arms.
Obama, who won the Peace Prize in 2009 and will be in Japan this weekend to attend a summit of world leaders, declined the invitation.
"Now here, Liu Xiaobao, you see, failed to come here. It is very sad," the exiled Tibetan religious leader told Associated Press Television News.
The Dalai Lama also said it was "very sad" that Myanmar's detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi would not be able to attend.
Past recipients scheduled to attend include Lech Walesa of Poland, former South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk, East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta and former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez.
They are expected to press for the freedom of Liu and Suu Kyi.
Previous meetings were held in Rome, Berlin and Paris.