- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

NEW YORK — A divided United Nations yesterday postponed for two years an effort to ban human cloning, with a bloc of Islamic nations claiming more time is needed to study the issue.

The delay was a disappointment for the Bush administration, which has pursued a total ban with the support of predominantly Roman Catholic nations, religious groups and cultural conservatives.

The U.S. resolution, co-written with Costa Rica, would have led to a ban even tougher than U.S. domestic law in outlawing cloning and related research.

Governments have almost universally agreed to prohibit the reproductive cloning of human beings.

But member states were divided between the U.S. proposal and a competing one from Belgium, which would have allowed cloning for research and therapeutic purposes.

Faced with significant support for competing resolutions, the General Assembly legal committee accepted by a vote of 80-79 a proposal by Iran, on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, to delay the vote for two years. Another 15 nations abstained.

“We are disappointed that the opponents of the total ban on cloning have been able to use a procedural device to prevent the international community from registering the significant majority that exists in favor of a total ban, and it’s particularly regrettable that it was by a margin of only one vote,” U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham said after the vote.

U.S. officials say they had commitments from more than 100 countries to approve Washington’s resolution, which states that human cloning “for any purpose whatsoever, is unethical, morally repugnant and contrary to due respect for the human person, and that it cannot be justified or accepted.”

The U.S.-Costa Rican text also “declares that, pending the adoption of an international convention against human cloning, states shall prohibit any research, experiment, development or application in their territories or in areas under their jurisdiction of control of any technique aimed at human cloning.”

Among the co-sponsors of the U.S.-Costa Rican draft were many predominantly Catholic countries, including the Philippines, East Timor, El Salvador, Portugal, Fiji, Italy and Spain.

Several African nations — persuaded, in part, by the specter of impoverished women working as cell breeders — signed on. They included Benin, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Nigeria.

The Belgian proposal was co-sponsored by more than a dozen nations, including Brazil, Britain, China, Japan and South Africa.

In introducing the procedural motion, Iranian legal adviser Mostafa Dolatyar stressed that the Organization of the Islamic Conference did not support either draft resolution, but wanted the two-year delay “to give adequate time for all member states to study all aspects and ramifications … [of] a very complex and delicate question.”

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