All the key parties in the Princess Diana investigation gathered in a Paris courtroom Friday for a hearing that could clear the way for a long-awaited decision on whether photographers had a role in her death.

The Aug. 31 crash in a Paris traffic tunnel killed Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, and driver Henri Paul. More than nine months later, Judge Herve Stephan is still trying to find out who was at fault.Together today for the first time were the photographers under investigation; eight witnesses to the crash; Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi's father and the man who employed the driver Paul; and, according to defense lawyers, Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd. They were accompanied by a platoon of lawyers.

Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, the sole survivor of the crash, was invited to attend but decided not to come.

Tests showed Paul was drunk at the time. But Stephan must still determine the responsibility of the paparazzi trailing Diana's Mercedes that night.

Nine photographers and one press motorcyclist have been placed under investigation, a step short of being formally charged. They have remained in legal limbo for almost a year while they continue to work.

In what was seen as a last-ditch effort to clarify their roles, Stephan was questioning each photographer one by one today.

Lawyers emerging from the courtroom described the process. Two hours into the hearing, the judge had already dealt with two photographers: Romuald Rat and Stephane Darmon. Each gave an account of their activities that night. The judge then questioned them, questioned witnesses as to what they had seen, then opened questions to other lawyers.

Stepping outside for a break, Al Fayed would say only: "It's going fine. Great judge."

Al Fayed is a civil party in the case, meaning he has access to documents and proceedings. Diana's mother was also there but said nothing, according to lawyer Virginie Bardet.

Ten witnesses were summoned, but only eight showed up. They included the first emergency doctor on the scene, Frederic Mailliez, and the first two policemen on the scene.

The photographers are being investigated on two charges: manslaughter, and failing to come to the aid of a person in danger. Many close to the case believe they will soon be exonerated, at least on the manslaughter charge.