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U.N. abandons idea of anti-cloning treaty

In a victory for advocates of stem cell research, U.N. diplomats give up trying to craft a treaty to outlaw human cloning.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Both sides in the human cloning debate claimed victory Friday after the United Nations shelved competing proposals for a treaty to ban the procedure and agreed to meet again in February to try to find consensus.

The compromise means that the U.N. General Assembly will not vote on rival resolutions that would have started the ball rolling on drafting a worldwide treaty — either to ban all human cloning or just ban reproductive cloning and allow some for stem cell and other research.

Instead, they will step back and negotiate. The sides agreed to meet again in February and work for a less powerful declaration that would convey the 191 U.N. members’ stance. Whether consensus will be found, however, is by no means certain.

Nations had argued for months over two draft proposals for a treaty.

One, offered by Costa Rica, called for the drafting of a treaty banning all forms of cloning. The other, from Belgium, would have allowed some cloning for science.

In the end, though, the divisions were simply too stark to get consensus.

The General Assembly’s legal committee, without a vote, accepted a proposed draft declaration by Italy as the basis for February’s discussion.

Would a ban have passed?
Costa Rica, the United States and their backers said their proposal to begin drafting a treaty banning all cloning would have passed. But they said it would not have been able to overcome a procedural delay threatened by Belgium to again postpone the talks for another year.

“We’re just happy that we got this agreement, and we hope we’ll make progress,” said Belgian diplomat Marc Pecsteen. “We haven’t finished the business. We’ll see after February what the situation is.”

While there is near universal support among the United Nations’ 191 members to ban reproductive cloning — the cloning of babies — countries have wrestled over whether to allow cloning for stem cell and other research.

The decision was a blow to President Bush, who had gone before the U.N. General Assembly in September urging the world to pass the Costa Rican resolution. On Friday, U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States was still pleased with Friday’s vote.

“It’s our longstanding position that all human cloning is wrong, and we are proud of our efforts to prevent human cloning,” he said. “So the fact that there isn’t any action by the U.N. to endorse cloning is a moderate success.”