, TOKYO, Sep 21 – US President Barack Obama has been urged by five former and present state leaders to join them at a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners in Hiroshima in November, the city said on Tuesday.
Obama, who won the prize in 2009 and has called for a world without nuclear weapons, has not yet responded to the request.
The request was made in a letter signed by former presidents and Nobel Peace Prize laureates — Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union, Lech Walesa of Poland, Frederik Willem de Klerk of South Africa, Costa Rica\’s Oscar Arias Sanchez — as well as present East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta.
"Mr Obama\’s attendance will be possible in terms of timing. Hiroshima for its part wants him to come no matter what," Seiki Araki, an official at the city\’s peace promotion division, told AFP by telephone.
Obama is already scheduled to attend an annual summit of Asia-Pacific leaders on November 13-14 in the Japanese port city of Yokohama.
No sitting US president has ever travelled to Hiroshima or Nagasaki, the other city struck by an atomic bomb during the Second World War.
Former president Jimmy Carter visited after leaving office while Richard Nixon travelled there as a private citizen between his terms as vice president and president.
In August, the US government was represented for the first time at an official ceremony commemorating its bombing of Hiroshima with ambassador John Roos in attendance.
Obama\’s presence in Hiroshima could prove a delicate issue for the US, which has refused to concede to Japanese demands for an apology over the loss of innocent lives in the atomic bombings.
Many Western historians believe the attacks were necessary to bring a quick end to the war and avoid a land invasion that could have been even more costly.
The annual meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners has been held since 1999. Hiroshima, which has rebuilt since the bomb devastation, will be the first Japanese city to host the summit, which will bring together nine peace prize winners and representatives from 13 organisations.
The other laureates include Ticapitalfmnewn spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Nothern Ireland peace activist Mairead Corrigan Maguire, former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei and human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi.