Call for prince's removal from envoy role

A leaked letter from a former senior British diplomat has revealed the growing consternation at the trade envoy role of Prince Andrew.

The prince, Queen Elizabeth II's second son, is under pressure to resign his role over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy US businessman jailed for soliciting underage prostitutes.

Stephen Day, 73, a former head of the Foreign Office's Middle East section, said in a letter leaked to the Daily Telegraph that Andrew, also known as the Duke of York, was harming Britain's relationship with the rest of the world.

"It is surely now recognised that the Duke's activities are doing such serious damage to the royal family itself and to Britain's political, diplomatic and commercial interests that an entirely new role should be found for him as soon as possible," the letter said.

The former diplomat also alleged the prince had held a "worrying" private meeting with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi three years ago at the home of Sakher el-Materi, the son-in-law of the recently deposed Tunisian president.

The letter was addressed to three government departments. It is highly unusual for diplomats to criticise the royal family.

Andrew has been Britain's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment since 2001, travelling around the world and at home promoting British business interests.

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman has pledged full support for the prince's role, but privately a government source admitted: "There won't be many tears shed if he resigns".

Reports say the Queen has met Andrew to discuss recent events.

Diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website last year showed US officials were shocked by the "rude" prince's "astonishing display of candour" during a business trip to Kyrgyzstan.

The criticism of Andrew is embarrassing for the British royal family as it prepares for the wedding on April 29 of the second-in-line to the throne, Prince William, and his university sweetheart Kate Middleton.

- AFP

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