August 5, 2006

Thousands recall Hiroshima A-bomb, pray for peace

By Issei Kato

HIROSHIMA (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people from
around the world gathered in Hiroshima on Sunday to pray for
peace and urge the world to abandon nuclear weapons on the 61st
anniversary of the first atomic bombing.

In an annual ritual to mourn the more than 220,000 people
who ultimately died from the blast, a crowd including
survivors, children and dignitaries gathered at the Peace
Memorial Park, near ground zero where the bomb was dropped.

"Radiation, heat, blast and their synergetic effects
created a hell on Earth," said Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba.

Lamenting a global trend toward nuclear proliferation,
Akiba called for a campaign to free the world of atomic

"Sixty-one years later, the number of nations enamored of
evil and enslaved by nuclear weapons is increasing," Akiba told
the crowd gathered under a blazing summer sun.

"The human family stands at a crossroads. Will all nations
be enslaved? Or will all nations be liberated?"

The Peace Bell tolled at 8:15 a.m. - the moment the Enola
Gay B-29 warplane dropped the bomb on August 6, 1945 - as the
crowd stood and bowed their heads for a moment of silence.

The United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the
southern city of Nagasaki on August 9.

Six days later, Japan surrendered.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed to abide by Japan's
pacifist constitution and non-nuclear policy.

"Japan, the only country that has suffered atomic bombings
in the human history, has the responsibility to keep telling
the international community about its experience," Koizumi

"With the resolve not to let the tragedy of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki repeat itself anywhere, Japan has delivered on its
pledge not to wage war in the past 61 years."

Under Koizumi, Japan has enacted legislation allowing its
troops to play a greater security role abroad and sent soldiers
to Iraq on a reconstruction and humanitarian mission, the
military's largest and riskiest operation since 1945.


Koizumi's ruling party and the main opposition party are
also seeking to revise the pacifist constitution, whose Article
Nine prohibits maintaining a military but which has been
interpreted as allowing armed forces solely for self-defense.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed fear that
nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of "non-state

"More than six decades after the devastation of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, the unspeakable horror of nuclear weapons remain
etched in our collective consciousness," Annan said in a
message read on his behalf during the 45-minute ceremony.

"A world without nuclear weapons may be distant, but it is
not a dream," Annan said.

"The worrying possibility of dangerous nuclear material
falling into the hands of non-state actors should energize
efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regime."

This year's anniversary coincides with renewed concerns
about nuclear programmes by Iran and North Korea, which last
month jolted the region by firing a salvo of missiles.

It also comes amid debate, intensified by Koizumi's visit
to Yasukuni Shrine for war dead, over how Japan should view its
responsibility for the war and the suffering it caused in Asia.

The atomic bomb had killed some 140,000 people by the end
of 1945, out of Hiroshima's estimated population of 350,000.
Thousands more succumbed to illness and injuries later.

The names of 5,350 people who died recently were added to
the list of victims, bringing the total number recognized by
the city to 247,787. A few thousand names are added each year.

"Cities and citizens of the world have a duty to release
the lost sheep from the spell and liberate the world from
nuclear weapons," Akiba said as the cries of cicadas filled the