The announcements of cloned babies "whether true or false, allow the Raelians' sect to be known throughout the world," Vorilhon, as known as Rael, told 300 followers gathered here Sunday.

In effect, Rael confirmed an explanation given to ZENIT last week by Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center of Studies for New Religions. Introvigne speculated that Vorilhon, like other leaders of religious movements criticized by the media, strive on publicity.

Brigitte Boisselier, director of Clonaid, an enterprise linked to the Raelians, claimed Dec. 27 in Florida that the first human cloned in a laboratory had already been born. She has not offered the scientific evidence of this.

"If Brigitte Boisselier has done it, she has achieved a wonderful thing and should receive a Nobel prize," Vorilhon said Sunday.

"If it isn't true," he added, "it's the most beautiful scientific joke but, in any case, it has allowed us to communicate our messages to the whole planet. I want to thank Brigitte eternally for it, and when I say eternally, I mean it."