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Europeans call for bans on cloning, death penalty

European leaders, faced with some of the difficult moral challenges of their age, agreed Saturday to call for bans on human cloning and the death penalty.

The 40-nation Council of Europe also agreed to create a new court of human rights during its two-day summit in this Alsacian capital.The meeting ended with a final declaration filled with good intentions toward the continent's downtrodden and ill-treated, and a new plan of action.

"It's been a step in the right direction, whether it be on human rights, social progress or peace," French President Jacques Chirac said.

Premier Lionel Jospin said the council had "intensified its efforts to move toward a Europe that is more democratic, more just and constantly concerned with human dignity."

In their final document, members of the council, founded in 1949, reaffirmed the organization's principles of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law and its role in setting the standards in these areas for all of Europe.

Most importantly, Jospin said, "we have placed the protection of the individual at the heart of our work in adopting our plan of action."

The plan calls for the establishment of the new Court of Human Rights by Nov. 1, 1998. The leaders also endorsed plans to create an office of Commissioner for Human Rights.

The clause on cloning said the leaders will "undertake to prohibit all use of cloning techniques aimed at creating genetically human beings."

The leaders also called for universal abolition of the death penalty.

President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic said new member countries such as his that have emerged from communist rule see the council as "an anchor of values - unique and irreplaceable - that is closely linked with the broader European integration process."