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Sunday, February 22, 2004 - Page updated at 12:43 A.M.

World Digest
Journal recants publication of autism study

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LONDON — The leading medical journal Lancet said yesterday it should not have published a controversial 1998 study that claimed a link between childhood vaccinations and autism.

Editor Dr. Richard Horton said Dr. Andrew Wakefield and a team of British scientists who conducted the study on the triple measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine didn't reveal that they were being paid by a legal-aid service looking into whether families could sue over the immunizations.

Horton called it a "fatal conflict of interest."

Wakefield's study suggested that the MMR vaccine could put children at risk of autism — a developmental disorder often arising in the first few years of life — and inflammatory bowel disease.

The study has since been discredited on scientific grounds, but some parents have clung to the findings and health officials say vaccinations have fallen dangerously low since its publication.

Allegations to be published today in The Sunday Times say Wakefield and his team at the Royal Free Hospital were being paid by the Legal Services Commission, a legal-aid service that was considering whether families could sue over children believed damaged by the MMR injection.

Uzbekistan willing to host U.S. troops permanently

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — Uzbekistan will allow the United States to keep military forces here as long as needed for operations in Afghanistan and would consider a permanent U.S. outpost if the United States wanted one, Foreign Minister Sadyk Safayev said yesterday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will visit Tashkent Tuesday, his third trip here in two years. A U.S. base in the southern town of Khanabad became a key staging point for American operations in Afghanistan. Hundreds of troops are stationed there.

New Serbia leader hesitant to extradite war suspects
BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro — Defying U.S. threats to cut aid and crucial political support to the troubled Balkan republic, Serbia's new prime minister said yesterday that extraditing top suspects to the U.N. war-crimes tribunal won't be his top priority.

Vojislav Kostunica, former Yugoslav president and longtime opponent of the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, said Serbia has more important issues to deal with, such as simmering social tensions and a ruined economy.

"This country is not a simple deliverer of human goods to The Hague tribunal," Kostunica said.

The United States says Serbia must hand over war-crimes suspects from the Balkan wars of the 1990s in order to receive $100 million this year in aid and other support from international financial organizations.

Albanians want leader ousted after utility-price increase

TIRANA, Albania — At least 17,000 Albanians marched through the capital yesterday, calling for Prime Minister Fatos Nano to resign after the government raised prices for power, telephones and other utilities.

The protest, called by the opposition Democratic Party and led by ex-president Sali Berisha, was peaceful. Demonstrators stormed Nano's office two weeks ago.

Nano last week sought to ease the financial pain of the price increases, pardoning a decade of arrears in electricity bills and halving the price of domestic phone calls.

Pakistan army debuts nuclear-capable missile

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The army rolled out a new short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile yesterday, a military statement said. The "indigenously produced" surface-to-surface solid-fuel missile Hatf-III Ghaznavi was designed to "consolidate and strengthen" Pakistan's nuclear deterrent, President Pervez Musharraf said in a statement.

The army statement said the Hatf-III has a range of 180 miles. Pakistan already has the Hatf-IV, with a range of 466 miles and capable of carrying all types of warheads, and the Hatf-V, which has a range of up to 1,440 miles.

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