An article in Friday's Business section misstated the dates of reported circulation figures for the Washington Times. As of September 1988, the audited figure for the Times is 94,017, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. An unaudited publisher's statement by the Times quoted circulation at 106,852 as of September 1989. (Published 7/ 31/90)

The nation's largest newspaper circulation auditor this week temporarily suspended the Washington Times from its service, a move that could ultimately damage the paper's ability to attract advertisers.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations, an independent company that audits the circulation figures of newspapers around the country, said it was taking the rare action because of the poor condition of the newspaper's records.

The suspension means that the newspaper cannot provide outside confirmation for its claimed circulation, a key consideration for advertisers when buying space in the newspaper.

"In the short run, it would be hard to say that there would be any significant effect, but for a newspaper that does not get audited for a considerable period of time, questions then can be raised" about circulation, said Al Gollin, vice president and director of research for the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, a New York-based trade group.

It was not immediately clear what effect the suspension would have on the privately owned Times, which had an audited paid daily circulation of 94,017 as of March 1989, down from 106,852 six months previously, according to the bureau.

The Times is said to be losing millions of dollars a year. It is supported chiefly through the Unification Church under the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. A Times spokeswoman did not return phone calls yesterday afternoon.

Pending a cleanup of its records, the Times could be reinstated in six months, said a spokesman for the Schaumburg, Ill.-based Audit Bureau.