Hiroshima mayor criticises US over global nuke treaty

HIROSHIMA: The mayor of this city denounced the United States for pursuing new nuclear weapons technology and blamed Washington for pushing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to “the verge of collapse,'' as he marked the 58th anniversary yesterday of the world's first atomic bomb attack. 

Tadatoshi Akiba said Washington's apparent worship of “nuclear weapons as God'' was threatening world peace. 

“The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central international agreement guiding the elimination of nuclear weapons, is on the verge of collapse,'' Akiba said during the annual ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park. “As the US-British-led war on Iraq made clear, the assertion that war is peace is being trumpeted as truth.'' 

At 8.15am, a bell tolled, marking the minute on Aug 6, 1945 when the US atomic bomb's explosion devastated this city, 687km southwest of Tokyo. For 60 seconds, tens of thousands of survivors, residents, activists and officials from around the world bowed in silence to commemorate the 160,000 people who were killed or injured in the blast. 

Reminding the crowd of the “blazing hell fire that swept over this very spot 58 years ago,'' Akiba called all nuclear weapons “utterly evil, inhumane and illegal under international law.'' 

This year's ceremony comes less than a week after North Korea agreed to US demands for six-nation talks to resolve the standoff over the isolated communist regime's suspected nuclear weapons development programme.  

Akiba didn't directly criticise Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. But he urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, US President George W. Bush and the heads of other nuclear-armed countries to visit Hiroshima and confront the A-bomb attack's aftermath. 

The Bush administration wants Congress to approve US$68mil (RM258mil) for research into advanced nuclear weapons technology, including research on a ground-penetrating nuclear warhead, known as a bunker-buster, and smaller, so-called mini-nukes, of less than five kilotons. 

Hiroshima city added to the cenotaph 5,050 names of those who have died from cancer and other long-term ailments over the past year, raising the toll to 231,920, city official Yukiko Ota said. 

Setsuko Komura, an A-bomb survivor who lost her parents in the blast, said her health was failing and expects her name to be on the cenotaph when she dies. 

“I want this tragedy never to happen again. But it can because the United States and other countries are still building nuclear weapons,'' said the 76-year-old Komura, as she wiped at tears. 

Ceremonies will be held on Saturday on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, on the southernmost main island of Kyushu. About 70,000 people were killed by an atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki from a US aircraft, three days after the one that levelled Hiroshima. – AP  

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