British minister defends prince over leaked comments
A senior British minister defended Prince Andrew on Tuesday after documents released by WikiLeaks showed him launching a tirade against the British and US governments, the French and others.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said the fourth in line to the throne did a "lot of very good work" in his role as an unpaid trade envoy for the British government since 2001.
In a secret US diplomatic cable published by the whistleblowing website on Monday, the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan described the "astonishingly candid" Andrew of behaviour that "verged on the rude" during an event in Bishkek.
It said the prince attacked British anti-corruption officials probing the huge Al-Yamamah arms deal between Saudi Arabia and BAE Systems in 1985 and castigated the US and British governments as "stupid."
"He (Andrew) has taken this on on a voluntary basis, he works extremely hard going round the world promoting British exports and does a very good job," Cable told BBC radio.
Cable defended Britain's record on tackling corruption and said that it was a "matter for the government and I think he (Andrew) understands that."
"But I don't want to be negative about him because he is a great guy and he is very enthusiastic about what he does and he does a lot of very good work for Britain in trade promotion," he said.
Buckingham Palace said it did not comment on leaked documents.
In a separate cable released by WikiLeaks, a senior Commonwealth official reportedly said that Andrew's brother Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, "does not command the same respect" as Queen Elizabeth II.
Amitav Banerji, political affairs director at the Commonwealth secretariat, was quoted on the question of whether Charles would succeed his mother to the head of the 54-country organisation upon her death.
According to the memo from the US political officer in London, dated June 11, 2009, Banerji said the Commonwealth was "trying quietly to get him more involved in Commonwealth affairs".
The leaked documents have left diplomats worldwide red-faced and have drawn the ire of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who called their release an "attack" on the US and the world.
© 2010 AFP