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Lott opposed to funding stem-cell research

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi told reporters Monday he is against using taxpayer dollars to fund stem-cell research with human embryos, stepping up pressure on President Bush as he weighs whether to block federal funding for the controversial studies.

Lott, who had been circumspect on the issue previously, said he has concluded that he can support only those stem-cell studies that use adult tissue.

"I believe there are some very positive things that can be done without going into the area of forming or harvesting embryonic stem cells. I have a problem with that," Lott said.

Scientists believe stem-cell research could lead to treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes, but many abortion foes have been urging Bush to block federal funding for the embryonic studies, calling them immoral.

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But some anti-abortion politicians, such as Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, and former senator Connie Mack of Florida -- both close to Lott -- have urged Bush to allow the use of federal dollars for research because of embryonic cells' potential to fight disease.

Current rules put in place by the Clinton administration allow federal money for stem-cell research using embryos provided the work is funded by private money and the embryos come from fertility clinics and would otherwise be discarded.

Lott's comments echo those of three House GOP leaders who last week wrote Bush urging him to block federal funding for research using human embryos and instead focus on adult stem cells.

"It doesn't have to be, you know, embryo stem-cell research or fetal or cloning," Lott said. "There are very serious concerns here from the moral and bioethicist's standpoint that you have to evaluate. I believe, though, that there's a great deal that you can do in terms of research with adult stem cells or other cells that come from umbilical cords, things of that nature."

Lott would not say whether a decision to allow federal funding for embryonic research would politically damage Bush by offending his conservative base.

"I think that he's going to think through this very carefully and make the best decision that he possibly can. And I'll be very interested in what that decision is and hopefully will be able to be supportive," Lott said.

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