Prince entertained Ben Ali son-in-law at palace: report

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Prince Andrew played host to the son-in-law of ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali at Buckingham Palace, just months before he was toppled, the Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday.

The Duke of York, who is Queen Elizabeth II's second son, held a lunch for Sakher el-Materi, the 29-year-old son-in-law of Ben Ali, three months before the regime collapsed, the paper said.

Andrew, who is also Britain's special representative for international trade and investment, attended the event with more than a dozen executives from multinational companies.

"Whatever has happened since, at the time it was a legitimate public engagement," the Guardian quoted a spokesman for the duke as saying.

"He was expected to go to Tunis this year as part of a UK Trade and Investment visit and this was a legitimate occasion at which he could meet British business people investing in Tunisia and the vice-chairman of the British-Tunisian chamber of commerce (Materi)."

Ben Ali fled the north African country for Saudi Arabia on January 14 after a month-long popular uprising against his rule, which began in 1987.

The Middle East and North Africa area has been rocked by unrest since the revolt in Tunisia sparked similar protests in Egypt which ousted president Hosni Mubarak last month.

© 2011 AFP

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