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Iran's Counternarcotics Canine Clone War

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

The head of Iran's Royan Research Institute, Mohammad Hossein Nasr-Esfahani, says Iran is cloning 4,000 drug-sniffing dogs to help its antinarcotics campaign.

A police dog in Tehran

Iran became the first country in the Middle East to clone a sheep in 2006, and Iranian scientists later claimed to have cloned a goat.

The cloning program has reportedly received backing from the country's clerics, who are said to have issued decrees authorizing the cloning of animals. 

Nasr-Esfahani has said that being able to clone animals is an honor for Iran, which has been made possible thanks to "self-belief and reliance on indigenous capabilities."

Royan Research Institute's Dr. Nasr-Esfahani

But the cloning of dogs might be more controversial than earlier efforts. Dogs are considered unclean in Islamic doctrine, and dog ownership has always been frowned upon in the Islamic Republic.

In 2007, Iranian blogger and journalist Reza Valizadeh was reportedly detained because he revealed that President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's security staff bought four bomb-sniffing dogsfrom Germany for about $150,000 each.

The same year, Iranian authorities launched a crackdown on dogs (though not on their owners, for a change) and impounded dogs at a so-called canine "prison" in Tehran.

photo: a pet clinic in Isfahan, Iran

There has been no comment so far on why Iranian officials are planning to clone a drug-sniffing army rather than buying or breeding the dogs the old-fashioned way.

photo: a pet clinic in Isfahan, Iran

Related Article: Photos- Iran transgenic kids fight heart disease 

Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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