WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration announced it will investigate whether a UFO cult claiming to have produced the world’s first human clone illegally performed any of the alleged work in the United States.

Though the U.S. has no specific law against human cloning, the FDA, which regulates human experiments, has contended since 1998 that its regulations forbid human cloning without prior agency permission – authorization that it has no intention of giving.

Clonaid, a company formed by a group called the Raelians, who claim aliens created all life on Earth, announced that it had produced a cloned baby girl born yesterday to a U.S. woman – although it provided no proof that the baby had indeed been cloned.

Nor would company head Briggitte Boisselier say where the human embryo allegedly was cloned or implanted into the mother, or even where the baby was born.

President Bush also weighed in on the cloning controversy.

A spokesman said Bush is “deeply” troubled by efforts to clone human beings and wants Congress to ban the practice.

“The president believes, like most Americans, that human cloning is deeply troubling and he strongly supports legislation banning all human cloning,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “Despite the widespread skepticism among scientists and medical professionals about today’s announcement, it underscores the need for the new Congress to act on bipartisan legislation to ban all human cloning.”

The baby girl was born to a 31-year-old American woman yesterday, according to Boisselier. She was allegedly cloned through cells taken from the mother.

Clonaid is associated with a cult called the Raelians, whose founder, Claude Vorihon, calls himself Rael and describes himself as a prophet.

Clonaid says it will rely on outside forensic experts to do the DNA tests necessary to prove they have produced a clone.

Several experts said standard DNA profiling, the same tests used for forensic tasks like identifying a body, would be sufficient proof.

Most likely, the experts would get the DNA from blood drawn from mother and baby or by scraping the roofs of their mouths.

If the baby is a clone, its DNA will match both the nuclear DNA and the mitochondrial DNA of the woman who was said to be cloned, experts say.

Such testing should take about a week. Clonaid expects it will have results in a week to 10 days.

Bosselier said at the press conference today, “I have created life.”

Five followers of Raelianism were reportedly implanted with cloned embryos earlier this year as the UFO cult raced with maverick Italian gynecologist Severino Antinori to be the first to deliver a cloned human baby.

Two U.S. couples, two Asian couples and one European couple are involved in the project. One of the American couples was expecting the first birth.

Raelians, who claim to number 55,000 members worldwide, believe the first humans were cloned by aliens who visited the Earth in flying saucers 25,000 years ago.

They believe these aliens, or Elohim – a Hebrew word referring to God – will return to Jerusalem when there is world peace and an embassy has been built for them.

Vorilhon, the movement’s founder, is a former French motoring journalist and racing car driver, who renamed himself Rael after supposedly being visited in 1973 by a member of the Elohim. He described his visitor as being about 3-feet tall with long black hair, almond-shaped eyes, olive skin and exuding “harmony and humor.”

He says he discovered through this meeting that his father was an alien, and claims he was taken in the flying saucer to meet Jesus, Buddha and Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons. Rael, who lives in Quebec, claims cloning will enable humanity to attain eternal life.

Meanwhile, Antinori expects his first cloned baby to be delivered next month.

The predominant cloning method around the world entails removing the nucleus, or core, from an egg and replacing it with DNA from a donor. This DNA “reprograms” the egg, transferring into it the entire genetic code of the donor.

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