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Britain talks tough on stem cell research

Will vote against UN cloning ban

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The UK will today vote against a UN general assembly committee proposal to ban all forms of human cloning. British stem cell research advocates recently slammed the "political" vote which carried the nonbinding statement, and intends to walk it like it talks it at the full UN general assembly.

The Government today said: "The UN declaration is non-binding and has no legal status, but it calls on countries to prohibit all forms of human cloning. This is totally unacceptable to the UK government which strongly supports stem cell research, including embryonic stem cell research which involves the use of cloning technology. Stem cell research could lead to new treatments for serious and fatal diseases that affect millions of people."

On the highly controversial issue of "reproductive cloning", UK health secretary John Reid says: "Reproductive cloning is already illegal in the UK. Anyone attempting it in this country faces a 10-year prison sentence and unlimited fine. However, the UK Government supports all types of stem cell research, including those involving therapeutic cloning. Stem cell research is still in its infancy but it has the potential to revolutionise medicine in this century in a way that antibiotics did in the last. The Government is determined to use every opportunity to let science find ways to cure diseases."

He notes that the UN declaration is "non-binding and will make no difference whatsoever to the position of stem cell research in the UK: therapeutic cloning will continue to be allowed. The UK remains 'open for business' in stem cell research."

The UK's stance is endorsed by stem cell research supporters such as Belgium and Singapore. It is opposed most notably by the US, which backed the non-binding statment. Islamic nations have already said they will abstain on the vote "in the absence of a consensus". ®

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