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Thursday, July 15, 1999 Published at 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK

World: Europe

BA loses Iraq hostage appeal

BA was accused of transporting intelligence agents aboard the flight

By Paris Correspondent Stephen Jessel

A French court has rejected an appeal by British Airways against a ruling that it had to pay £2.5m ($3.75m) in compensation to French passengers aboard a flight seized in Kuwait at the start of the Gulf war.

The appeal court confirmed the judgement by a lower court that the airline had failed in its duty to get its passengers safely to their destination.

There were 65 French passengers aboard the BA flight from London to Kuala Lumpur, which in August 1990 made an unscheduled stop at Kuwait airport.

It was just after the Gulf war started and the aircraft's passengers were transferred to a hotel where they were taken hostage by Iraqi troops and later forced to become human shields in Iraq.

After the war they sued BA, arguing the stopover in Kuwait had been unnecessary, and suggesting the aim had been to land intelligence agents - something BA and the UK Government have denied.

A court in 1995 said BA bore entire responsibility for the affair and awarded each of the French hostages several tens of thousands of pounds according to how long they'd been held, with smaller sums going to their family members.

BA initially challenged the court's decision and lost.

The aiirline was allowed to appeal once more, but only after paying over the money originally awarded by the court and it has now lost the final round.

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