RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Sen. Jesse Helms, the ornery conservative who tormented liberals in Congress for most of the past three decades, announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election next year.

The five-term Republican cited his age in his decision. He is 79.

``I would be 88 if I ran again in 2002 and was elected and lived to finish a sixth term,'' he said. ``This, my family and I decided, I should not do and shall not.''

The remarks were played on the evening newscast at WRAL-TV, the station where Helms' fiery editorials helped build support for his election to the Senate in 1972.