- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

ROME The world's first cloned baby is the son of a rich Arab, according to claims made by Severino Antinori, the Italian fertility specialist.
Dr. Antinori said that the embryo was the clone of a VIP, and that he had been experimenting to produce human clones in an Islamic country.
The doctor, who pledged with Panos Zavos, of the Andrology Institute of America in Lexington, Ky., to attempt to clone a baby by the end of 2001, caused outrage last week when he told a scientific meeting in the United Arab Emirates that a patient was eight weeks pregnant with a clone.
His claim has met with disbelief from infertility specialists worldwide, coupled with concern that such a pregnancy could result in a severely malformed baby, as has been the case in animals.
Dr. Antinori, however, has told Giancarlo Calzolari, a friend and science reporter at Il Tempo newspaper in Rome, that the pregnancy is real, and that he has a "limitless supply of money" for his experiments.
Mr. Calzolari said he had been contacted by the doctor on Friday.
"He told me it was a clone of an important, wealthy personality," Mr. Calzolari said. "However, he was vague when I asked him the name of the woman and to at least describe the father. He would only say that he was a grosso personaggio [a big cheese].
"The doctor added, 'I have at my disposal whatever amount of money is needed to reach the result. Imagine, it has been possible to carry out in a Muslim country a kind of research that was impossible to do in the West.'"
Dr. Antonori has also dismissed concerns about malformations, claiming that it was a "certainty" that the problems seen in other cloned animals did not occur in human beings, Mr. Calzolari said. The doctor claimed that all the embryos implanted during the program were examined first, reducing the risk of malformations "almost to nothing."
A leading Arab infertility specialist said that he was highly skeptical of Dr. Antinori's claim of working in an Islamic country.
Samir Abbas, the president of the Saudi Arabian Fertility Society, said that the religious authorities had ruled against the procedure a long time ago, and that anyone involved would face heavy sanctions.

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