British prince pilloried over pedophile pal

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 22, 2011 10:38 AM
British prince pilloried over pedophile pal

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - 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. pedophile and allegedly having contacts with the Libyan leader's family.

"Prince of Sleaze" ran a headline in Monday's 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.

"I think the government is making a big mistake here...," he told BBC radio. "They should be absolutely clear -- we are going to dispense with his services."

"DONE NOTHING WRONG"

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.

"There's no accusation he's done anything wrong and there's been no suggestion of any impropriety on his part because there has been none at all," the source told Reuters.

"You won't be seeing him and Mr Epstein in a photograph again," the source added.

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

"We fully support Prince Andrew in his role as trade envoy ... we think he does an important job, he makes an important contribution and we are not reviewing that role," he said.

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.

"I don't know what he's done or hasn't done. There's a lot of speculative stories about him," Cable told BBC radio.

"It is down to him to judge the position he wants to be in. Obviously there are conversations which will take place with him about what he's to do in future."

(Editing by Michael Roddy)