Japan's effort to launch an international program in basic biological research has stalled again amid continued confusion over its specifics, according to U.S. and Japanese sources familiar with the project.

The latest setback to the Human Frontier Science Program came earlier this month at the Venice economic summit, where Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone had been expected to unveil an official proposal. Instead, final details of the program remain under wraps, and the seven leaders of major industrial nations, in a single paragraph far down in the summit communiqué, issued only a general endorsement of the concept.

"We welcome the initiative of the Human Frontier Science Program," the document said, noting that the feasibility study by Japan "will be continued, and we would be pleased to be kept informed about its progress."

That progress has been fitful since early last year, when Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) revealed...

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