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Japan Mourns Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Anniversary
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Japan marked the 62nd anniversary of Hiroshima's atomic bombing with a solemn ceremony yesterday as the city's mayor criticized the United States for refusing to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Tens of thousands of elderly survivors, children and dignitaries gathered at the Peace Memorial Park, near ground zero where the bomb was dropped, to remember the more than 250,000 people who ultimately died from the blast.

"Even to those who managed to survive, it was hell where they envied the dead," Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba told the crowd, describing scenes from the bombing such as charred faces and torn clothes.

In a speech followed by the release of 1,000 white doves into the sky, Akiba singled out the United States for failing to halt nuclear proliferation.

"The Japanese government, which has the duty to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons through international law, should protect its pacifist constitution which it should be proud of, and clearly say 'no' to antiquated and wrong US policies."

The crowd bowed their heads for a moment of silence as two children rang the Peace Bell at 8:15 AM, the same time the Enola Gay B-29 bomber dropped the bomb on the western Japanese city on August 6, 1945.

The United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the southern city of Nagasaki on August 9. Six days later, Japan surrendered.

This year's anniversary followed outrage by local residents over remarks by Japan's former defense minister that had appeared to condone the bombings.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized on Sunday to survivors in Hiroshima over the comments by Fumio Kyuma, who had said the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "couldn't be helped" because they brought World War II to an end.

Kyuma resigned over the remarks.

Abe, after laying a wreath at the ceremony in the sweltering summer heat, said he would abide by Japan's pacifist constitution and decades-old non-nuclear policy.

Controversy erupted last year when a senior ruling party lawmaker said Japan should discuss acquiring nuclear weapons after the North Korea conducted a nuclear test.

(China Daily via agencies August 7, 2007)

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