Victim's praise for Diana's message on landmines

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The Independent Online
Diana, Princess of Wales, arrived in Bosnia yesterday, and earned the praise of a landmine victim, who said people around the world would not be distracted from her visit's message by world headlines about her new "romance".

The princess flew into Sarajevo for the start of a three-day visit to develop her campaign against landmines by meeting maimed victims, who regard themselves as "forgotten". She smiled and was clearly relaxed as she alighted from the unmarked white jet in which she flew from London.

She was welcomed by a small group of officials and charity workers, before boarding a car carrying the markings of Norwegian People's Aid. Ken Rutherford, co-founder of the Landmine Survivors' Network, which arranged the trip,was on the tarmac to welcome her. He had lost both his legs in a landmine explosion in Somalia.

"I have lost both my legs and I have testified to the US Senate and spoken to a lot of politicians" said Mr Rutherford. "I have met the Princess and she is a real person. She cares about this issue in her heart.

"You don't come to Bosnia for a vacation. I think most people around the world will see her just as I do. She really cares."

American-born Mr Rutherford was an aid worker in Somalia in 1993 when he lost his right leg, and part of his left needed amputating.

He founded Landmine Survivors' Network in September 1995 with Jerry White, also 33, who lost his foot when a landmine exploded on a hiking holiday in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in 1984.

Mr Rutherford said he met the Princess when she had addressed a meeting in London about landmines earlier this year.

"It's incredible that she has come to Bosnia. She is the most renowned face in the world and for her to support what we are doing is incredible."

He believed she had been particularly attracted to the fact that the network was particularly concerned about landmine survivors long after they were injured.

The security surrounding the visit was so tight that some of the families the Princess was to meet were unaware that she was coming, he said. Others had been told only in the last few days. Security considerations meant there were few further details of the Princess's itinerary, but she was due to meet groups of mainly military victims of landmines during an evening at an hotel in Tuzla last night.

International discussion about the need to ban landmines had tended to ignore the problems faced by the victims, said Mr Rutherford. "These people become forgotten, shut off in their own homes."

Diana had just returned from a Mediterranean holiday with the millionaire playboy Dodi Fayed, 41, son and heir of Harrods owner, Mohamed al-Fayed.

According to reports, the Princess was seen arriving at his apartment on Thursday night, apparently to have dinner with him, only hours before her departure for Bosnia.

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