Australia casts doubt on cloned baby claims

Claims that a human baby had been cloned in Australia were dismissed as "the medical equivalent of a UFO story" by officals here.

Biotechnology group Clonaid claimed late Wednesday that its sixth human clone had been born to a previously infertile Sydney couple last week at a local hospital.

But the organisation, linked to the Raelian religious sect, declined to produce DNA evidence to back up its claims.

Health Minister Tony Abbott raised doubts about the validity of the claim and reiterated his government's opposition to human cloning.

"I think that this is the medical equivalent of a UFO story," Abbott told commercial television. "I don't support cloning. Cloning is illegal, immoral and dangerous."

The New South Wales state health department said it had received no information from any public hospitals to support the claim.

Clonaid biochemist Brigitte Boisselier said the baby boy was healthy but declined to give specific details about the birth to protect the parents' privacy.

"We waited a few days to make sure that everything was okay, but like the first five babies born last year, he was perfectly healthy and reactions are perfectly normal," she said.

Boisselier said another seven cloned babies were due to to born around the world before the end of the month.

She said the movement had not broken Australian laws banning human cloning because the baby was conceived overseas.

The Raelians, who claim some 60,000 followers worldwide, believe life on Earth was established by extraterrestrials who arrived in flying saucers 25,000 years ago and produced the first humans through cloning as a result of their knowledge of DNA.