Pressure on prince to quit trade post

LONDON - Britain's Prince Andrew faced growing calls on Monday to quit as an unpaid trade ambassador over his ties with a convicted US sex offender and his hosting of the deposed Tunisian leader's son-in-law.

The prince's friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy businessman jailed for soliciting underage prostitutes, led to accusations from one opposition politician that Andrew had become an "embarrassment".

David Cameron's spokesperson said the prince had the prime minister's full support, but a government source admitted "there won't be many tears shed if he resigns".

The prince's spokesperson denounced "insinuations" in press reporting of the prince's relationship with Epstein, but the row is an unwelcome distraction for the royals just weeks before the wedding of his nephew, Prince William, and Kate Middleton on April 29. Andrew's ex-wife Sarah Ferguson became embroiled in the row after it emerged that Epstein gave her £15000 (R167000) at the prince's request to help pay off debts. She told London's Evening Standard newspaper that the prince "does not know how to tell an untruth or behave dishonourably. I deeply regret that Jeffrey Epstein became involved in any way with me," she said, adding that taking his money was a "gigantic error of judgment on my behalf".

Royal Navy commander Andrew, fourth in line to the throne, has been Britain's special representative for international trade and investment since 2001. He is unpaid but his expenses are paid by the British government.

"We are not reviewing that role in any way," Cameron's spokesperson said. Some reports suggested that Andrew, 51, would not be asked to resign but would merely see his role downgraded.

But Chris Bryant, of Britain's opposition Labour Party, said the prince should give up the position:

"I think we should be dispensing with his services. I think the charge list against him is so long now that he is a bit of an embarrassment," Bryant told the BBC.

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