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Bosnia marks Diana's anti-landmines visit 20 years on

Bosnia has marked the 20th anniversary of a visit by Diana, Princess of Wales, her last overseas tour before she died in a car crash in Paris.

Her crusade against landmines led to her three-day visit to Bosnia from August 9 1997, during which she met victims who sustained their injuries during the country's savage civil war in the 1990s.

Three weeks after her visit, which coincided with news of her romance with millionaire Dodi al Fayed, the pair died in a car crash in Paris when their driver lost control of his car as they were pursued by photographers.

British ambassador to Bosnia Edward Ferguson said during a memorial conference in Sarajevo that Diana would be saddened by the fact that mines still kill people in Bosnia.

"What I think 20 years ago Princess Diana did is that she shone a light on this problem with mines, and she really brought it into public attention in an enormous way, in a way, perhaps, that only she could have done," Mr Ferguson said.

"By walking through a mine field in Angola, by visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina just a few days before she sadly died, she really got the public attention and therefore political attention as well."

He said undetected landmines still represent a danger in Bosnia despite some recent progress.

Half a million people, or about 15% of the population, live with this fear of mines, Mr Ferguson added.

The princess's trip to Bosnia was organised by the Landmine Survivors Network, a group founded in 1995 by two American victims of landmines, Ken Rutherford and Jerry White.

As part of the visit, Diana made a surprise visit to the Suljkanovic family in their modest home in the small village of Dobrnja, near Tuzla.

Several weeks earlier, the father of the family, Muhamed Suljkanovic, had lost both his feet after stepping on a landmine in the forest outside his house, a remnant of Bosnia's three-year war.

Diana took him some cake on August 9, his birthday, his wife Suada remembered.

"Diana and her friend Ken (Rutherford), the American, they brought the birthday cake, and they sang happy birthday to him, and we were in shock. How did they know?"

However, the Suljkanovic family's joy turned to shock and disbelief when, just a few weeks after Diana's visit, they heard on the radio that the princess had died.

"'What?' I said to myself. How? Where? I could not believe it. Immediately after that I named my newborn daughter Diana, after the princess. They say we have to somehow remember good people, and we remember her like that," said Mr Suljkanovic.

During her visit, Diana promised financial support for Mr Suljkanovic for a new prosthesis.

Just a couple of months after she died, the family said they received a donation from the Royal Family for the exact amount promised by Diana.

AP

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