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Prince Andrew To Quit Trade Role, Reports Say

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PRESS ASSOCIATION -- The Duke of York is to step down from his role as the UK's roving business ambassador, according to reports.

Speculation is mounting that Andrew will give up the post following the intense scrutiny he faced earlier this year over his relationships with a series of controversial figures, including a convicted paedophile.

The Duke has been dogged by accusations of a lack of judgment about his links with American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution.

Further doubts were raised about Andrew's position in the wake of media coverage about him entertaining the son-in-law of ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali at Buckingham Palace. Andrew also held a meeting with Libya's embattled leader Colonel Gaddafi while on a private visit to Tunisia in 2008.

But as the criticism mounted in March, he received the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne.

Andrew has been the UK's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment since 2001, travelling around the world and at home promoting Britain's business interests. But there have also been long-running complaints about the lavish nature of his official foreign trips.

Calls for the Duke to resign or be removed from his role were made in March by Labour MP Chris Bryant, a former Foreign Office minister, and senior Labour backbencher Mike Gapes.

A leaked letter written by retired diplomat Stephen Day, a former ambassador to Qatar and Tunisia, to Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that an "entirely new role should be found for him as soon as possible".

At the height of the media interest the Duke pulled out of a business trip to Saudi Arabia. But Buckingham Palace sources stressed the decision was "nothing to do" with the press coverage and was made for safety reasons. Andrew appeared to weather the storm and carried on with his public duties. He flew to Indonesia in April for a three-day business visit.

But the Duke is said to have informed the Queen and consulted Downing Street about his intentions, according to the Daily Mail. Sky News has quoted sources as confirming the royal will step down as Britain's trade envoy.

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