Diplomat Diana leaves the fighting to the tabloids

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The Independent Online
Diana, Princess of Wales, played the diplomatic side of her life to perfection among the landmine victims of Bosnia yesterday, as the passionate side - lone woman finds fulfilment at last - began to unfold pictorially in London.

The Princess spent the day visiting and being photographed with people whose limbs had been blown off, her relaxed friendliness unaffected by the knowledge that back in Britain the Sunday Mirror was preparing to publish a series of photographs indicating "beyond doubt" her romantic involvement with Dodi Fayed, the millionaire playboy son of Mohammed al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods.

The pictures published this morning, taken with a telephoto lens by the Italian paparazzo Mario Brena at a bay off the coast of Sardinia, show the Princess and Mr Fayed kissing in their swimwear, on board his yacht Jonikal. In another, the Princess is lying down looking relaxed and happy with the straps of her swimsuit slipped back as Mr Fayed sits close by looking out to sea. The couple look for all the world as if they are on honeymoon.

If the Princess was unhappy about their impending publication yesterday, she did not let it show. In her pristine white shirt, pressed jeans and light tan moccasins she looked like a shopper from Harvey Nichols who had somehow strayed into a war zone.

As she left the home of Mohammed Soljankic, who had his feet blown off in hills near Tuzla in 1992, a reporter shouted out: "Isn't it wonderful news about your relationship with Mr Fayed?" Diana did not betray a flicker of reaction. The young man tried his luck again, calling out: "What's it like to be in love?" This time the only response came from one of Diana's Scotland Yard bodyguards who said: "You stupid boy."

Mr Soljankic, 38 yesterday, was given a birthday present by the Princess with news that the Landmine Survivors' Network, the group with which she is travelling, will pay for artificial limbs he sought from Bosnia's Health Ministry, which deemed the cost prohibitive.

Cost, however, was no object in the bidding for the pictures, the most furious photograph auction in the history of royal exclusives, which was finally won by the Sunday Mirror at pounds 250,000 - merely for today's use.

Their publication follows 48 hours of intense negotiations - unparalleled since the "Diana-in-the-gym" photographs illicitly taken as she worked out in a London health club - between tabloid editors and Britain's premier royal paparazzo, Jason Fraser, who is acting as Mr Brena's agent.

The deal was struck at midnight on Thursday after the Sunday Mirror matched the asking price of pounds 250,000. Sources at the Mail on Sunday claimed their newspaper had offered pounds 500,000 the following morning, but Mr Fraser, 29, refused to renege on the deal.

Mr Fraser, who retains syndication rights for the photographs, has sold second picture rights - worth an estimated pounds 100,000 each - to the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror. Such was the desperation for the picture exclusive that the News of the World today features a picture of the couple embracing which it admits - in the small print - has been doctored by a graphic artist.

The battle for the Diana pictures followed claims last week by Associated Newspapers that the Mail on Sunday outsold the Sunday Mirror last weekend for the first time, by a margin of 100,000 copies. Its magazine's souvenir issue, devoted to pictures of the Princess of Wales, was believed to be behind the record sale of 2.3 million.

Meanwhile, Mr Fraser was yesterday busy selling further rights to the photographs around the world in deals worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Paris Match is believed to have paid one million francs - pounds 100,000.

Buckingham Palace remained silent about the latest in a long-running series of unwelcome holiday snaps for the troubled Royal Family, which have included the Duchess of York having her toes sucked by the Texan businessman Johnny Bryan and topless pictures of Diana herself which were never published in Britain.