OXFORD - Europe's oldest political organization, the Council of Europe, has adopted a protocol banning human cloning. The protocol, which would be added to the Convention on Human Rights and Bioethics, needs to be ratified by five European nations, including four members of the 40-nation Council before it enters into force among the signatories.

Article 1 of the protocol prohibits "any intervention seeking to create a human being genetically identical to another human being, whether living or dead." Article 2 excludes any derogations from the provisions of the protocol, such as for reasons of public safety, to prevent criminal offenses, to protect public health or to protect the rights of freedoms of others.

The protocol's scope is confined to the cloning of human beings - it is left up to each country's domestic law to define the scope of "human being" - and does not take a stand on the ethical admissibility of cloning cells and tissue for research purposes.

Signature by member states will begin Jan. 12 at a conference of national ethics committees in Paris, the council said.

Surge in