Brussels, 22 Nov 2004
United Nations diplomats have apparently abandoned efforts to draft a binding treaty outlawing human reproductive cloning because a compromise could not be found on the divisive issue of whether or not to allow therapeutic cloning for research purposes.
Instead, efforts in the UN legal committee will now focus on trying to agree a nonbinding declaration that will satisfy both sides of this highly polarised debate. According to one Belgian diplomat involved in the talks, Marc Pecsteen: 'There is such division in the international community that any treaty would not make it, so the idea of the declaration is to find some general language that we could all live with.'
Member states agreed to use a draft declaration, proposed by Italy, as a starting point for new discussions that will begin in February. 'It's not that there's consensus on the Italian text,' explained Mr Pecsteen. 'There's consensus on using it as the basis [for further talks].'
However, nations have already begun drawing lines in the sand ahead of the debate. In the proposed Italian text, countries are called on to 'prohibit any attempt at the creation of human life through cloning and any research intended to achieve that aim.' But Belgium, which opposes a ban on human therapeutic cloning, objects to the term 'human life', arguing that it could be misinterpreted to outlaw all forms of cloning.
Even if common agreement can be found on the wording of the declaration, the final document would only encourage nations to adopt laws in line with its position. Associated Press quotes an unnamed US official as saying: 'We are hoping for an outcome that will satisfy everyone, that the principle of human dignity is preserved but the wording satisfies all parties.'