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As tabloids tell it, Diana practically married

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LONDON (CNN) -- The relationship between Princess Diana and millionaire film producer Dodi Fayed is just a few weeks old, but Monday's headlines on Britain's royalty-obsessed tabloids practically had them married.

Newspapers confidently predicted a wedding and compared the match to Jackie Kennedy's 1968 marriage to Aristotle Onassis. "Here comes the Fayed," said the Star.

Papers declared that, like Jackie Onassis, Diana needs a wealthy husband who can provide her with the high life she craves while sheltering her from the media clamor that follows her every move.

The 41-year-old Fayed, whose father, Mohammed, is one of the richest men in the world, would seem to fit the bill for the princess, who divorced Britain's Prince Charles last year after a 15-year marriage.

"Whether it will go very much further, I don't know," said royal family historian Sarah Bradford. "Diana ... is in this lonely situation and it's a rebound, too .... from all the various disasters she's had."

Among the "disasters:" An affair with ex-Army officer James Hewitt and a relationship with rugby star Will Carling, whose own marriage broke up as a result.

Fayed family controversy

The Fayed family has its share of controversy, too. Although Mohammed Al Fayed, an Egyptian, has spent three decades in Britain and owns Harrod's department store, he has been denied a British passport and is seen in some circles as a social climber.

"If (Dodi) enables Mohammed Al Fayed to introduce Princess Diana as 'my future daughter-in-law' he will have fulfilled his ambitious father's greatest dream, which is to feel an integral part of the British aristocracy," Lynda Lee-Potter wrote in the Daily Mail.

But Bradford notes that the senior Fayed "has been recently involved in allegedly bribing British MPs (members of parliament)." The corruption allegations helped bring down the last British government.

"Dodi Fayed's uncle, on his mother's side, is a well-known arms dealer," Bradford continued. "I'm sure they're extremely nice people, but it does cast a slight shadow over things."

Fuzzy photos earn fortune

The Dodi and Diana story became Britain's hottest media property Sunday when a tabloid newspaper published a series of photographs that it claims shows the couple kissing and embracing while on a cruise in the south of France sometime in the past 10 days.

Such is the interest in Diana's love life that the Italian photographer who snatched the blurry pictures through a telephoto lens may have become a millionaire overnight.

The prospect that the princess had finally found love almost completely overshadowed her trip to Bosnia last week, intended to highlight the plight of land mine victims -- at least as far as the British press was concerned.

Diana, who flew back to Britain late Sunday, left a country where charities struggle to raise 700 pounds ($1,110) for a pair of artificial limbs. and "she went back to a world whose media paid 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) to buy paparazzi shots," commented the Guardian newspaper.

The Sunday Telegraph said the photographer stood to earn around $3 million worldwide from the pictures.

And it seems the princess was as interested as anyone else to see what the papers were saying about her. As she waited for her plane to take off, reporters spotted her sifting through a pile of Sunday's tabloids.

Correspondent Margaret Lowrie and Reuters contributed to this report.


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