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Declaration Banning Human Cloning Adopted

The United Nations' legal committee voted on Friday for a non-binding political declaration which calls for prohibiting all forms of human cloning, including therapeutic cloning for medical research.


A draft declaration presented by Honduras was adopted by the UN General Assembly's Sixth Committee, in a vote of 71 to 35, with 43 countries abstaining. The Organization of Islamic Countries said before the showdown that its members would abstain since there was no consensus on the text.


The declaration, passed in the form of a resolution, calls upon member states "to prohibit all forms of human cloning in as much as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life."


It also calls upon member states "to adopt all measures necessary to protect adequately human life in the application of life sciences."


Belgium proposed several amendments to Honduras' text in a bid to make it more acceptable to countries which favor cloning of human embryos for medical research. But most of the amendments were rejected.


Friday's vote put an end to four years of fierce debate in the 191-nation UN legal committee over the cloning issue. The panel have been bitterly divided over whether to ban both the cloning of human beings and that of human embryos for the purpose of medical research.


The United States, Cost Rica and scores of other governments, which view the cloning of human embryos for stem cell research as taking of human life, have insisted on a ban on all forms of human cloning. But Belgium, backed by Japan and dozens of other countries, have maintained that therapeutic cloning be allowed in order to find a cure for millions of people suffering from cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and other diseases.


The sharp difference forced the two camps to abandon an attempt at a legally binding convention banning human cloning late last year.


In a speech following Friday's vote, Chinese representative Su Wei said China voted against Honduras' text because its language was very vague and might be interpreted as a ban on therapeutic cloning. "Therefore," he said, "This declaration will not be legally binding on China."


His comments were echoed by Singapore, Britain and many other countries.


British representative Gavin Watson said his country voted against the draft "because we could not, in good faith, vote for apolitical declaration in these terms which could be interpreted as a call for a total ban on all forms of human cloning."


"We permit such research in the United Kingdom because of the hope it offers of new treatment to benefit millions of people and their families, but we respect the cultural, religious and social differences that may lead others to take a different approach," he said.


Singaporean UN Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon, who also voted "no," said the declaration "does not capture the diversity of views which have been expressed on this important issue."


"Instead, it seeks to impose a single set of values and beliefs upon the international community," he added.


(Xinhua News Agency February 19, 2005)


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