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SURVIVING Siamese twin flies home from Britain

LONDON (AP) _ A 10-month-old girl whose life was saved by an operation that killed her Siamese twin sister left England on Sunday, flying home to the tiny Mediterranean island of Gozo.

Gracie Attard left from Manchester Airport with her parents, Roman Catholics who had fought against the surgery in the courts because they knew it would kill her weaker sister, Rosie.

Despite their opposition, the couple said they were grateful that judges decided doctors should separate the twins in order to save Gracie's life.

``My wife Rina and I didn't want to separate them ever. It was against our strong religious beliefs,'' Michaelangelo Attard told the News of the World, a British tabloid.

``Of course we're now happy that we still have Gracie _ this is the greatest Father's Day gift I could ever have wished for,'' he said.

The Attards had traveled to Britain from the Maltese island of Gozo for medical care after learning that Rina Attard, the 29-year-old mother, was carrying babies whose spines were fused.

After the girls were born Aug. 8, doctors warned that both would die within six months if they were not separated.

The Attards resisted the procedure, which was certain to kill the weaker twin, who relied on Gracie's heart and lungs to receive oxygenated blood. Anti-abortion activists also opposed it.

Appeals Court judges ultimately sided with the doctors, and the twins were separated in November in a 20-hour operation. As expected, Rosie died.

The surviving twin has since undergone months of medical procedures, and she still faces years of reconstructive surgery.

A surgeon from St. Mary's Hospital in Manchester, where the operation was performed, said Sunday that Gracie has recovered well and is expected to have a normal life.

``Gracie is alert and is mentally ahead for her age and we expect her to lead a full and normal life,'' said Dr. Adrian Bianchi. ``Gracie can look forward to normal relationships and eventually to a family of her own.''

Two British tabloids published interviews with the parents Sunday, along with photo spreads of Gracie, who looked bright-eyed and healthy.
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