Martin Luther King Jr. The Dalai Lama. Mother Teresa. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?

The nation's largest business organization yesterday confirmed it is actively seeking to join the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners for what it says was its role in bringing about the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. A spokesman for the Washington-based chamber said that the organization deserved consideration because "the activity of the U.S. business community, and particularly the chamber, has ... shown the world the value of exporting democracy and the free-enterprise system."

The Oslo-based Nobel Committee has previously awarded the peace prize to such legendary figures as King, Polish labor leader Lech Walesa, Soviet dissident Andrei D. Sakharov and Mother Teresa, the Yugoslavia-born nun who has devoted her life to working among India's poorest people. Last year's winner was the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader who has led a nonviolent struggle to free his homeland from Chinese occupation.

Actually, the peace prize appears to have been the chamber's second choice.

Organization officials, including President Richard L. Lesher, considered making a bid for the Nobel Prize in economics, but changed their minds after learning that the economics prize had never been awarded to an organization, according to the National Journal, which reported the chamber's plan this week.

The chamber's name was placed in nomination for the prize by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) with a supporting letter from David A. Morse, a New York attorney who formerly directed the International Labor Organization, the 1969 winner of the Nobel award.

The chamber's spokesman, Milt Mitler, said the nomination was Morse's idea, but acknowledged that chamber employees have been active in supplying materials to support the bid.

Lugar's chief of staff, Marty Morris, said yesterday, "You'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't think they deserve {it}."

Mere steps away from the citadel of capitalism, the AFL-CIO, the chamber's frequent rival, is, well, unconvinced.

"I would just like to make clear that in all the years we supported Lech Walesa, who really did start the movement {that toppled communism}, we are not -- repeat not -- nominating ourselves for the Nobel Peace Prize," Rex Hardesty, a spokesman for the labor organization, said yesterday.

A chamber official, who asked not to be named, said some of his colleagues were embarrassed by Lesher's pursuit of the award. "It was an ego trip," he said.