President of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas visits Hiroshima

by Keisuke Yoshihara and Aya Kano, Staff Writers

On February 7, Mahmoud Abbas 74, president of the Palestinian Authority, visited Hiroshima at the beginning of his scheduled trip to Japan and learned about the devastation wrought by the atomic bomb through a visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Mr. Abbas offered flowers to the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, guided by Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, and toured Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, receiving explanation from Toshihiko Kunishige, the deputy director of the museum. Mr. Abbas stopped in front of a photo depicting an elder sister and her younger brother suffering hair loss due to the acute effects of the atomic bomb's radiation and gazed hard at this image.

After a roughly 40-minute tour of the museum, Mr. Abbas wrote in the museum guest book: "My heart is aching for the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." He then said to the press: "People in Palestine have also been afflicted by war. War causes destruction of humans and civilizations. We should eliminate nuclear weapons."

Prior to his visit to the city, Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki met Mr. Abbas, who arrived at Hiroshima Airport by presidential airplane, and spoke with him at a nearby hotel. Mr. Abbas commented, "I hope that leaders all over the world will visit Hiroshima and learn about the devastation. International conferences in pursuit of world peace should be convened in Hiroshima."

This is the third time Mr. Abbas has come to Japan, following his last visit of May 2005. He had hoped to visit Hiroshima, which was realized for the first time on this occasion. Mr. Abbas will be leaving for his next destination, South Korea, on February 10.

On the evening of February 8, Mr. Abbas held a meeting with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at the Prime Minister's residence and pledged to pursue the "world without nuclear weapons" that U.S. President Barack Obama has been advocating.

(Originally published on February 9, 2010)