National People's Congress (NPC) Chairman Li Peng yesterday left for New York to attend the Millennium Conference of parliamentary leaders. Xinhua said Mr Li - accompanied by his wife, Zhu Lin, and other NPC officials - also would visit Russia, Iceland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The agency said Mr Li would deliver a speech on Thursday at the opening of the conference, where he is expected to face protests. The NPC leader will meet United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and parliamentary leaders from other countries. Mr Li will be followed by President Jiang Zemin, who is due to attend a summit of world leaders organised by the UN next week. US President Bill Clinton is expected to meet Mr Jiang on the sidelines of the summit, but no US officials and senior politicians were reported to be meeting Mr Li. It will be the first time Mr Li sets foot on US soil since he attended a similar UN conference in 1992. Overseas dissidents have vowed to greet the NPC leader with protests outside the UN headquarters when he arrives. Although overseas dissidents are deeply divided over how to promote democracy on the mainland, they all share a common dislike of Mr Li - whom they say is responsible for the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Shen Guofang, Beijing's chief spokesman at the UN, yesterday was quoted by Hong Kong television as saying Beijing objected to suggestions by some developed countries that would highlight the importance of human rights over national sovereignty in a joint communique to be issued at the world leaders' summit. Mr Shen said the mainland and other developing countries insisted that national sovereignty must have priority over human rights. He also dismissed the protests planned by the dissidents, saying they only represented the views of 'a minority group of people'. He reportedly said that he was confident New York police would take 'proper measures' to ensure the safety and 'smooth progress' of Mr Li's visit.