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Fidel Castro calls on Japanese to tell nuclear experience to world

HAVANA (Kyodo) -- Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro took part in a gathering for Japanese atomic-bomb survivors organized by the Cuban government and a Japanese NGO on Thursday in Havana and called on them to convey to the world their experiences regarding the recent nuclear crisis in Japan and the 1945 U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The 85-year-old attended the gathering for more than three hours and made the call in a speech to about 800 Japanese in the audience. It was one of the few public appearances he has made following his retirement from all public positions last April.

Among other participants at the Global Hibakusha Forum, co-organized by Peace Boat, a Japanese nongovernmental organization and the Cuban government, were 10 survivors of the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, and Fuminori Tamba, an associate professor at the University of Fukushima.

Tamba is conducting research on the effects of radiation on local residents in the aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year.

Castro heard Hiroshi Nakamura, an 80-year-old hibakusha, speak about what he went through during the bombing of Hiroshima when he was aged 13.

"It's my duty to support hibakusha like you as we seek a world free of nuclear weapons," Castro said, adding that a book should be compiled in Cuba about the irradiation and the nuclear accident to tell the world what happened.

Touching on the disaster in Fukushima, he said, "Humankind has laid its hands on something extremely dangerous," although in the past he has expressed support for Iran's right to make peaceful use of nuclear power.

While Castro walked slowly, aided by a person beside him during the event, and his voice was slightly hoarse, he appeared to be in good spirits and smiled when he put on a Japanese happi coat given to him as a souvenir.

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