People holding paper lanterns march around the Atomic Bomb Dome (top) to comfort souls of the victims killed by the atomic bombing during World War II in 1945, at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan, 05 August 2016. Hiroshima will mark the 71st anniversary of the world's first nuclear bombing of the city on 06 August 2016.

Japan observed the 71st anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Saturday, with the city's mayor calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for more world leaders to visit the site.

About 50,000 people attended the ceremony, offering a minute’s silence at 8:15 am (2315 GMT Friday) at the Peace Memorial Park near ground zero, at the exact moment when a US B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city 71 years ago in the closing days of World War II.

“Today, we renew our determination, offer heartfelt consolation to the souls of the atomic-bomb victims, and pledge to do everything in our power ... to abolish nuclear weapons and build lasting world peace,” said Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui.

Representatives from 91 countries, including nuclear powers such as the United States, Britain, Russia and France, participated in the ceremony.

Matsui addresed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was at the ceremony, saying that “a nuclear-weapon-free-world would manifest the noble pacifism of the Japanese constitution.”

The prime minister wants to change the country's war-renouncing constitution after his ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s victory in the July upper house elections.

Article 9 of the constitution prohibits the use of force to settle international disputes.

Interest in Hiroshima was heightened this year after Barack Obama became the first incumbent US president to visit the site of the attack in May.

The president’s trip was preceded by a visit from US Secretary of State John Kerry in April, who paid tribute to the victims of the attack alongside his counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

On Saturday, Matsui urged more world leaders to visit the site of the atomic bombing.

The first use of nuclear weapons against humans annihilated Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands instantly. By the end of 1945, some 140,000 people had died. A second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki three days later on August 9.

The Health Ministry said the number of atomic bombing survivors stood at 174,080 as of March and that their average age was over 80 years. Many of them have suffered from the after-effects of radiation.

Latest news

German police shoot man who rammed car into pedestrians in Heidelberg

Police in Germany shot at a man who apparently rammed a car into pedestrians in the south-western town of Heidelberg on Saturday.

Egypt's president orders cabinet to help Christians escaping Sinai

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi ordered the government on Saturday to take all necessary measures to help Christians who escaped northern Sinai after the Islamic State militia killed at least six of them over the past month.

SDP MP calls on citizens to raise their voice against restriction of women's rights

Josko Klisovic, a Social Democrat member of the Croatian parliament, on Saturday called on all Croatians to raise their voice against a policy turnaround on women's rights after Croatia took a conservative position in a discussion on human rights in the Council of the European Union.

Egypt court acquits Mubarak's aide of 22 years

An Egyptian court on Saturday acquitted one of ousted president Hosny Mubarak's closest aides, ruling he was not guilty of corruption and illicit profits.

EU ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin under 24-hour police protection

EU Ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin and her family have been given 24-hour armed police protection due to threats she has been receiving lately, the Austrian paper Der Standard said on Saturday, explaining that the threats were linked to Vlahutin's monitoring of a reform of Albania's judiciary designed to curb corruption in that country.

Italy deports two over suspected contact with Berlin attacker

Italy has deported two Tunisian asylum seekers who have been classed as a danger to national security, the Interior Ministry in Rome said on Saturday.

Croatian PM says HEP IPO most efficient model for INA buyout

Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic on Saturday commented on models for buying back Hungarian oil and gas company MOL's stake in INA, saying that an initial public offering of 25% of the HEP power company's shares to obtain funds for INA's buyout was "the most efficient, fastest, simplest and cleanest option with the fewest participants, which enables the state, which is the owner (of HEP), to control the process in its entirety."

Iraqi forces advance in western Mosul amid fierce resistance from IS

Iraqi forces were making advances in western Mosul, entering a new neighbourhood north of the airport, amid fierce resistance from Islamic State militia, a security official said Saturday.

Mugabe says he will not step down as he celebrates 93rd birthday

President Robert Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, marked his 93rd birthday with lavish celebrations in Zimbabwe on Saturday, despite a deepening economic crisis in the southern African country.

Poll: Majority of Greeks want new savings reforms to avoid elections

Over 60 per cent of Greeks are in favour of striking a new deal to unlock a fresh bailout from creditors as an alternative to snap polls, according to a survey commissioned by the To Vima newspaper.

Man commits suicide in protest at high-profile temple raid

A male devotee of a controversial Thai temple under siege by the authorities committed suicide late Saturday in protest at the junta's ongoing occupation of the temple complex, local media reported.

Investor Warren Buffett increases profit by 15 per cent

Profits at business magnate Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway investment firm shot up by 15 per cent in the last three months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, the company announced on Saturday.