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Hiroshima Marks 59th Anniversary of Atomic Bombing - 2004-08-06

During the ceremony marking the 59th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the Japanese city's mayor used his annual Peace Declaration to take a swipe at the United States.

Amid the buzz of cicadas, a bell tolled in Hiroshima to mark the time of day 59 years ago when a U.S. warplane dropped the first atomic weapon ever used in combat.

Survivors of the 1945 attack, along with dignitaries and peace activists, were among the estimated 40,000 people who gathered under a scorching sun Friday for the city's annual observance of that cataclysmic moment.

After doves were released, Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, in his annual Peace Declaration, had harsh words for the United States.

The mayor said the "egocentric world view" of the United States is reaching extremes, with Washington ignoring the United Nations and international law by resuming research on smaller and more usable nuclear weapons.

Mayor Akiba, an outspoken member of one of Japan's leftist political parties, also criticized North Korea for developing its own nuclear weapons - or as he referred to them, "nuclear insurance."

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told the crowd Japan would continue to maintain its pacifist post-war constitution and will not produce or possess nuclear weapons, or allow them on its soil.

The prime minister says Japan will continue to push for other countries to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But Mr. Koizumi is viewed as a proponent of watering down the constitution to allow Japan's military more flexibility at home and abroad. His remarks received only thin applause, and some boos, from an audience oriented towards peace.

Only two nuclear bombs have been dropped in combat, both by the United States, both on Japanese cities, prompting Japan's surrender and the end of World War II. The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

The death toll from the Hiroshima bomb reached 140,000 people by the end of 1945. Thousands more died later of injuries and radiation sickness, and authorities say the number of dead from that single bomb now totals more than 237,000.

The southern Japanese city of Nagasaki, the second to be bombed, is to hold a similar ceremony Monday to mark the 59th anniversary of the nuclear attack there.