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Team to attempt human cloning

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- An international group of fertility experts has announced details of their plans to be the first scientists to clone a human being.

The group, meeting in Rome, discussed their strategy for human and so-called therapeutic cloning to help tackle a range of degenerative diseases.

The plan has come under heavy fire from scientific and religious camps and has been attacked as "grotesque" by the Vatican.


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The team includes Italian obstetrician Severino Antinori, who became famous for helping a 62-year-old woman give birth.

Antinori said: "Cloning creates ordinary children. They will be unique individuals, not photocopies of individuals."

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, head of the John Paul II Institute for Bioethics at Rome's Gemelli hospital, said human cloning raised profoundly disturbing ethical issues.

"Those who made the atomic bomb went ahead in spite of knowing about its terrible destruction," he said before the cloning meeting started. "But this doesn't mean that it was the best choice for humanity."

Dr Ian Wilmut, who created Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep, said it took 277 tries to get it right.

Other cloning attempts have ended in malformed animals and experts say the technique fails in 97 percent of cases.

Antinori and his partner, U.S. scientist Panayiotis Zavos, say they plan to carry out the first operation in an unidentified Mediterranean country, starting in October.

Zavos, who first announced the proposal in Lexington, Kentucky, in January, told the symposium on Friday that he had been flooded by e-mail from couples seeking to have children through cloning.

"Dolly is here and we are next," he said.

Last year, Britain proposed allowing human cells to be cloned for research purposes while other European countries, including Spain and France have banned human cloning altogether.

Antinori first attracted controversy when he helped a 62-year-old woman have a baby eight years ago by implanting an egg in her womb.

In the cloning experiment, cells from an infertile father would be injected into an egg, which is then implanted in the mother's uterus for the pregnancy.

The resulting child would have the same physical characteristics as his father and infertile parents would not have to rely on sperm donors.

The chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Ruth Deech, said: "There are lines you should not cross.

"You have to consider humanity as a whole and say there are limits beyond which we should not go for the sake of future generations and for respect for the autonomy and dignity of present generations."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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