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HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Seventeen winners of the Nobel Peace Prize are calling for a world free of nuclear weapons in a joint declaration that was published Monday in the Chugoku Shimbun in Hiroshima, following U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent commitment to eliminate nuclear arms.

The declaration urges people to press their leaders to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons ahead of a major conference on nuclear nonproliferation in 2010.

The laureates include Northern Ireland peace activist Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and American Jody Williams, who has campaigned against the use of land mines.

“The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Declaration of Nobel Peace Laureates,” drafted by Maguire and the Hiroshima newspaper, said that “for the first time in many years, the opportunity exists for genuine movement toward reducing and eliminating nuclear arms” in view of Obama’s April 5 speech.

In his speech in Prague, Obama declared “America’s commitment and desire to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the last days of World War II killed an estimated 214,000 people either directly or through radiation-related sickness by the end of 1945.

With about a year to go until the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, which will be held next spring, the laureates said, “World leaders will be faced with a stark choice: nuclear nonproliferation or nuclear brinkmanship.

“We can either put an end to proliferation, and set a course toward abolition; or wait for the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be repeated,” they said.

The peace prize winners said they are “deeply troubled” by the threat of proliferation among nonnuclear weapon states, blaming nuclear powers for having continued to brandish their arsenals, prompting other nations to seek their own nuclear weapons.

They said they are “equally concerned at the faltering will of the nuclear powers to move forward in their obligation to disarm their own nations of these dreadful weapons.”

The laureates meanwhile praised “the resolve of the A-bomb survivors, who have called on the world to avert another Hiroshima or Nagasaki,” saying they have “surely helped prevent that catastrophe.”

Noting that the world has successfully negotiated treaties banning land mines and cluster bombs that are indiscriminate in their effect, the 17 said eliminating nuclear weapons is “indeed a possibility — more than that, it is a fundamental necessity in forging a more secure planet for us all.”

Calling nuclear weapons “indiscriminate, immoral and illegal,” they urged the people of the world to press their leaders to “grasp the peril of inaction and summon the political will to advance toward nuclear disarmament and abolition.”

“To fulfill a world without nuclear weapons, and inspire a greater peace among our kind, humanity must stand together to make this vision a reality,” the laureates said.

The 17 winners include former South African President Frederik W. de Klerk, who made public in 1993 his country’s nuclear weapons development and dismantlement, and his compatriot, Bishop Desmond Tutu, who opposed apartheid, as well as Oscar Arias Sanchez and Jose Ramos-Horta, the presidents of Costa Rica and East Timor.

Asian laureates such as Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, as well as Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai, also joined the initiative.

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