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BA to pay pounds 3m to human shields

British Airways yesterday lost its appeal against having to pay compensation to French passengers who were held as "human shields" in Kuwait in the opening weeks of the Gulf War.

Upholding the year-old judgment of a lower court, a Paris judge ruled that half the compensation should be paid at once, and stipulated that BA could not launch a further appeal until that payment had been made.

The 61 passengers have been awarded between 400,000 and 600,000 francs (pounds 48,000-pounds 72,000) each, according to the time they spent in captivity - a total bill for BA of more than pounds 3m. The Paris Appeals Court confirmed the compensation for all but 5 of the 61 hostages, for whom it made minor adjustments.

A spokeswoman for British Airways in Paris later said said the company was "disappointed" at losing and "surprised" at the condition set for a further appeal. "BA has always said the idea it would deliberately endanger the safety of passengers or employees was preposterous," she said, "and we will vigorously defend ourselves."

The original case was brought by 61 French citizens The hostages have also been paid around 30,000 francs (pounds 4,000) each out of a French fund for terrorist victims.