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Iran announced this month that it had mastered the complete nuclear fuel cycle from uranium extraction to enrichment. Now it has made another technological advance: its first cloned goat.

The goat, named Hana, was born on April 15 at the Royan Institute in Isfahan, and is the first cloned goat in the Middle East, according to the Payvand news website. Iran is only the fifth country -- after the United States, Canada, Britain, and China -- to have moved to the forefront of goat-cloning technology.

In fact, the “Washington Times” reports, Iranian scientists have made great strides in embryonic stem cell research, largely unnoticed by an international community that has remained focused on the country's emerging nuclear program.

Shi’ite Muslim scholars believe that a fetus is given a soul at 120 days, and that abortion or manipulation of embryos before that time is permissible. That means that stem cell research, which encompasses cloning as well as potential treatments for a wide range of illnesses, has been moving ahead in Iran with the approval of the religious establishment -- while the same field in the United States has been slowed by religious and political controversy.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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