Prince Andrew postpones Saudi visit: report

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Prince Andrew has pulled out of a planned visit to Saudi Arabia, it was reported Saturday, amid questions over his role as Britain's unpaid trade envoy and continuing turmoil in the region.

Queen Elizabeth II's second son had been due to travel to the oil-rich Gulf kingdom next week to promote defence contracts but the visit has now been postponed, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.

Aides denied the change was caused by the growing pressure on the prince to quit his role over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy US businessman jailed for soliciting underage prostitutes, the paper said.

They instead cited the unrest in the Middle East, saying Saudi Arabia was not considered safe enough for a royal visit.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace refused to deny or confirm the reports about the prince, whose official title is the Duke of York.

"Buckingham Palace has never announced any overseas visit for the Duke of York," the spokesman said.

On Friday, a leaked letter from a former senior British diplomat revealed the growing consternation at Andrew's role, which he has held since 2001.

Stephen Day, 73, a former head of the Foreign Office's Middle East section, said the prince was harming Britain's relationship with the rest of the world and echoed calls from opposition Labour lawmakers for him to quit.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged full support for the prince's role, but a government source told newspapers last week that "there won't be many tears shed if he resigns".

© 2011 AFP

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