WASHINGTON (AP) _ Controversial U.S. research in Africa that violated federal patient protection rules was nevertheless conducted well enough to support its conclusions that the AIDS drug nevirapine could be used safely to protect babies from the disease, an expert scientific panel has concluded.

``The committee finds that there is no reason based in ethical concerns about the design or implementation of the study that would justify excluding its findings from use in scientific and policy deliberations,'' the Institutes of Medicine Panel said in a report obtained by The Associated Press.

The report, which is slated to be made public Friday, will have implications in both Africa, where medical officials are debating whether to withdraw the drug, and in the United States, where investigators are examining whether U.S. research is complying with federal law.

The report will be welcomed as good news at the National Institutes of Health, the federal agency that funded the nevirapine study in Uganda and which has been engulfed in months of controversy.