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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 22:23 GMT
Diana pre-inquest hearing public
Princess Diana
A decision will be made whether to hold separate inquests
The coroner in charge of the Princess Diana inquest has decided to hold a preliminary hearing in January in public, rather than in private.

Mohammed Al Fayed, who mounted a legal challenge for the hearing about Princess Diana and his son Dodi to be held in public, welcomed the decision.

UK law states inquests must be held in public, but early hearings need not be.

Lady Butler-Sloss was said to have been persuaded to change her mind because of public interest in the case.

Harrods boss Mr Al Fayed said that although happy with the decision, he would not tolerate any more attempts to conceal the truth.

I will not tolerate further attempts to sweep dirt under the carpet and conceal the truth
Mohammed Al Fayed

"The public and I have a right to know how my son and Diana, Princess of Wales, were really killed on that awful night.

"I will not tolerate further attempts to sweep dirt under the carpet and conceal the truth."

He added that he wanted to see whether a forthcoming report by Lord Stevens would help uncover the truth.

The preliminary hearing will be held at the Royal Courts of Justice in January, with a full inquest held at a later date at an undecided venue.

A spokesman for the Judicial Communications Office said: "The reasons she [Lady Butler-Sloss] had in mind that led her to conclude initially that the meeting should be held in private were entirely pragmatic - such as the size of the courtroom."

Among the matters that will be decided at the hearing include whether a jury will sit on the inquest.

It would be made up of members of the Royal Household as the princess was still considered a member of the Royal Family when she died.

French investigation

Lady Butler-Sloss will also decide whether the princess and Dodi Al Fayed's inquests - first opened and adjourned in January 2004 - will be held jointly or separately.

She was appointed to her new role after the Coroner of the Queen's Household, Michael Burgess, stepped down from the task in July.

Princess Diana, 36, and Mr Fayed, 42, were killed along with chauffeur Henri Paul when their Mercedes crashed in the Pont d'Alma tunnel in Paris in 1997.

They were pursued by paparazzi photographers after leaving the Ritz Hotel for Mr Fayed's apartment.

A two-year investigation in France blamed Mr Paul for losing control of the car because he had drunk alcohol and had taken prescription drugs and was driving too fast.

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