Britain's Prince Andrew says he has stepped back from public duties for the foreseeable future.

He is embroiled in controversy over his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

In a statement, Prince Andrew said: "I have asked Her Majesty (the Queen) if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.

"It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family's work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support".

The Duke of York added: "I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.

"I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives.

"Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required."

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Earlier, three Australian universities severed ties with a charity founded by the duke.

Bond University, Murdoch University and RMIT University in Melbourne said they would no longer work with "Pitch@Palace" - a charity founded by the Duke of York to promote entrepreneurship.

Murdoch University said it had "advised Buckingham Palace it would not continue its participation" in the project, while Queensland's Bond University said it had brought forward a review set for next year.

"In light of recent events, the university does not intend to seek any further involvement," a Bond University spokesperson said.

RMIT University said its "involvement with Pitch@Palace concluded in October 2019" and would not be renewed.

"We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring RMIT is a safe and inclusive place to work and study," the university said.

The announcements follow several UK-based businesses, including Standard Chartered and KPMG, and some universities already announcing they would no longer associate themselves with the prince or his charities.

British telecoms firm BT said it had told a company promoting digital skills to drop the prince as its patron if it wants to keep receiving support from it.

It said it is reviewing its work in iDEA (Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award).

"In light of recent developments we are reviewing our relationship with the organisation and hope that we might be able to work further with them, in the event of a change in their patronage," it said.

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The developments come after Prince Andrew denied he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's victims, on three separate occasions - twice while she was underage.

He said one alleged encounter in 2001 did not happen as he spent the day with his daughter Princess Beatrice, taking her to Pizza Express in Woking for a party.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center on 10 August as he awaited trial on allegations that he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex.