Prince Andrew to have British trade role downgraded: report

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British ministers will downgrade Prince Andrew's role as a trade ambassador over his association with a convicted paedophile, the Telegraph newspaper reported Monday.

Ministers will carry out a review into Andrew's position, which could result in the queen's second son losing his role completely, government sources told the British newspaper.

The prince came under increased fire after it emerged that US businessman Jeffrey Epstein -- who served 18 months in jail for child sex offences -- had paid off debts accrued by the Duchess of York, Andrew's former wife.

Andrew has been a guest at Epstein's Florida mansion where underage girls were abused but there has been no suggestion that the fourth-in-line to the British throne had ever been guilty of any wrongdoing.

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

A senior Conservative minister told the Telegraph that Andrew's position was fast becoming untenable due to his track record of poor judgement.

"There appears to be no discernible mental activity," the minister said. "I feel sorry for him. He has no friends and so is surrounded by these vile people."

Another government source told the paper: "We won't be giving a full-throated defence of him. There won't be many tears shed if he resigns."

Foreign Secretary William Hague earlier defended the prince, claiming he had done "a lot of good for the UK."

© 2011 AFP

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