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British prince pilloried over paedophile pal

posted 7 Mar 2011, 08:02 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 7 Mar 2011, 08:57 ]

Prince Andrew, fourth in line to the British throne, is coming under increasing pressure in his role as Britain's roving trade ambassador, after newspaper revelations about his links to both a convicted U.S. paedophile and the family of embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (MARCH 7, 2011) UK POOL - The royal family is supposed to burnish Britain's image but Prince Andrew has generated quite a different buzz by consorting with a convicted

U.S. paedophile and allegedly having contacts with the Libyan leader's family.

"Prince of Sleaze" ran a headline in Monday's (March 7) Daily Mirror over a story about the 50-year-old prince, who is fourth in line to the throne and is Britain's roving trade ambassador.

"Andrew: I won't quit over my pervert pal," the Sun added.

It's a long way from the gushing coverage the British media has dished out for Andrew's nephew Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton, ahead of their wedding next month. Instead, the newspapers have printed photographs of Andrew cavorting on yachts or sunbathing surrounded by topless women, and dubbed him "Airmiles Andy" for his use of publicly funded travel.

Andrew, who divorced his former wife Sarah Ferguson in 1996, has had a difficult relationship with the media for years, but not like this.

Nicknamed the "playboy prince" for his lifestyle, Andrew is in hot water over his friendship with New York financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was jailed in 2008 for child sex offences.

His alleged links to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam and the son of Tunisia's ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali also have come under media scrutiny.

The revelations have led to calls for Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth, to be axed as a special representative for a government body promoting British businesses abroad, a role he has held since 2001.

Lawmaker Chris Bryant, a member of the opposition Labour Party, said the government should get rid of Andrew immediately.

Fellow Labour MP Mike Gapes joined the call for the prince to lose his job and criticised parliamentary speaker John Bercow for telling lawmakers they had to be careful when commenting on members of the Royal Family.

"Because of his status he's not accountable, but he is representing our country, and frankly given the nature of some of the coverage there has been about his associations and the connections he's had with various people who many people regard as unsavoury, some of whom are guilty of crimes, we therefore need to actually say 'Thank you for what you've done in the past, but it's time to move on,'" said Gapes.

A royal source said the prince had met Saif Gaddafi twice, and they were not friends, and that Andrew accepted he had been unwise to have associated with Epstein since his conviction.

Royal historian Hugo Vickers defended the prince. "The thing is that a lot of the things that have come out today have nothing to do with the Duke of York at all, and there are a lot of allegations flying around. It's a sort of campaign in a sense which is being directed by the media against him, which of course is embarrassing for him and of course embarrassing for the Royal Family but doesn't mean to say that he isn't still doing an extremely good job," Vickers said.

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said he had full confidence in the prince.

But government sources have told the media any further revelations would make the prince's position untenable.

Business Secretary Vince Cable admitted there would be "conversations" about Andrew's future, but said it would be up to the prince to resign as he was a volunteer not a political appointee to be appointed or fired.

Speaking last year Andrew said he was used to living in the relentless glare of the media spotlight.

"I have no other experience, so I have to live with it. It's a fact of life in my life, so fine, we just live with it," he said.

On Monday the Duke visited the Canary Wharf offices of the Crossrail project, where he was confronted by dozens of waiting photographers and journalists.

Andrew smiled as he stepped from his chauffeur-driven Bentley, which had a personalised number plate ending in D0Y - for Duke of York. He refused to respond to shouted questions from journalists concerning his position.