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WikiLeaks: 'Rude' British royal was blunt in session with U.S. official

By Tim Lister, CNN
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Royal gaffes exposed
  • The U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan had lunch with Prince Andrew in 2008
  • "The discussion at times verged on the rude," she wrote
  • He joked that the corruption in Kyrgyzstan reminded him of France, she wrote

(CNN) -- Among the thousands of diplomatic documents obtained by WikiLeaks, there is talk of Iranian missiles, German politicians and a myriad of other issues, including one cable about a British prince -- and his views on geography teachers, the French, journalists and Russian influence in central Asia.

Back in 2008, the U.S. ambassador in the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, Tatiana Gfoeller, was invited to lunch with Prince Andrew, Duke of York, who was in the country to promote British interests. After the encounter, she observed in a cable: "Astonishingly candid, the discussion at times verged on the rude (from the British side)."

When the conversation turned to the problem of corruption, one businessman said that working in Kyrgyzstan was "like doing business in the Yukon" in the 19th century, "i.e. only those willing to participate in local corrupt practices are able to make any money."

"At this point the Duke of York laughed uproariously, saying that: 'All of this sounds exactly like France.'"

At another point, according to Ambassador Gfoeller, "the prince mused that outsiders could do little to change the culture of corruption here. 'They themselves have to have a change of heart. Just like you have to cure yourself of anorexia. No one else can do it for you.'"

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Referring to his coming meeting with the Kyrgyz prime minister, Prince Andrew seemed exasperated. "With a mock groan, the Duke of York then exclaimed: 'My God, what am I supposed to tell these people?!'"

The prince also addressed Russian influence in central Asia, stating that "the United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans, too) were now back in the thick of playing the Great Game. More animated than ever, he stated cockily: 'And this time we aim to win!' "

"The Great Game" originally referred to the 19th century struggle between Britain and Russia for control of central Asia.

The cable continued that Prince Andrew indicated he had little patience for the media interfering in the negotiation of business deals, condemning "these (expletive) journalists, especially from the National Guardian, who poke their noses everywhere."

According to the ambassador's account, the prince also "railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the 'idiocy' of almost scuttling the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia." That deal was a multibillion-dollar defense contract between BAE Systems and the Saudi government that became the target of a U.K. Serious Fraud Office corruption inquiry.)

Warming to her theme, Ambassador Gfoeller continues: "He then capped this off with a zinger: castigating 'our stupid (sic) British and American governments which plan at best for 10 years whereas people in this part of the world plan for centuries.'"

But she saves perhaps the best for last, referring to Prince Andrew's "unmitigated patriotic fervor."

One British guest at the lunch had noted that despite the might of the American economy, British investment in Kyrgyzstan was of a similar magnitude.

"Snapped the Duke: 'No surprise there. The Americans don't understand geography. Never have. In the U.K., we have the best geography teachers in the world!'"

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