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The United Nations has postponed its decision on proposals to ban human cloning after nations failed to agree whether such a ban should include cloning for research purposes.

At a meeting of the UN General Assembly's legal committee yesterday (6 November), countries voted narrowly, by 80 votes to 79, with 15 abstentions, to defer talks on the proposed ban for two years.

The decision to delay a vote was proposed by Iran on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. It comes in response to a failure to reconcile conflicting positions on 'therapeutic cloning' — cloning embryos for scientific and medical research, including stem cell research.

All countries agree on the need to ban 'reproductive' cloning – the cloning of a human to produce another human. One group of more than 40 countries, led by Costa Rica, the United States and the Vatican, wants also to outlaw therapeutic cloning. The other group, led by Belgium and France, proposes that individual nations be left to decide whether or not to allow therapeutic cloning.

The proposal to create a global ban on cloning was first made by France and Germany in 2001. But since then the talks have been plagued by the lack of consensus over therapeutic cloning (see Split on research blocks UN cloning ban).

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