A deeply divided U.N. General Assembly has approved a U.S.-backed declaration urging governments to ban all human cloning. Several countries immediately announced they would ignore the declaration.
After four years of technical and often bitter debate, the result of the vote on the declaration revealed failure to reach a consensus.
Eighty four of the 191 U.N. member states voted for the measure, 34 voted "no", 37 others abstained, and several more countries simply did not show up for the vote.
All countries agreed that reproductive cloning should be banned. But consensus broke down on the issue of cloning human embryos for stem cell research. In the end, the non-binding statement urged countries to adopt laws banning all cloning, including for medical research.
The vote is a victory for the United States and a number of predominantly Catholic countries that favor a ban on all forms of human cloning.
But comments made after the vote revealed lingering hostilities. In a clear reference to the United States, British ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry accused some countries of "intransigence" and made clear his country had no intention of observing a ban.
"I reject the whole tenor of it," said Emyr Jones-Parry. "The General Assembly missed another opportunity to put a ban on reproductive cloning. We missed out because a number of other countries were intransigent in trying to impose their wishes and their prejudices on the sovereign governments. As a result of that, there is no agreement, and for the United Kingdom we announced yesterday $2 billion of money for research on stem cell work, and we will maintain that position. The UK will be open for business."
South Korea and the Netherlands also flatly rejected the measure. China and Belgium were among other countries saying they would not honor the resolution.
Several ambassadors, however, admitted they were torn about which way to vote. Norway's ambassador Johan Lovald explained that his country voted against the declaration even though it agrees with the principle.
"Norway's priority has been to contribute to the elaboration of an effective, legally-binding instrument in the form of a convention on human cloning," said Johan Lovald. "We are unfortunately not able to see merit in a voted non-binding political declaration, as such a text would not be the expression of the will of the world community as a whole. We have therefore felt compelled to vote against the declaration."
Backers of the measure said they were satisfied with the outcome. But Ambassador Bruno Stagno of Costa Rica, which sponsored the original proposal, expressed regret that consensus proved impossible.
"In reality it is surprising and sad that at the beginning of the 21st century, certain delegations have objections to a text which calls upon states to adequately protect human life," said Bruno Stagno.
President Bush had urged the Assembly to approve a total cloning ban in his annual U.N. address last September. A U.S. diplomat welcomed the vote Tuesday, but said he would have nothing to add to a statement made last month, which called the declaration an important step to achieving a culture of life.