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Monaco's Albert Admits Paternity

The ruler of Monaco, Prince Albert II, has acknowledged having fathered an illegitimate son with a former flight attendant from Togo, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Albert — in his first remarks on the child since French media broke the story weeks ago — wants to face up to his responsibilities and hopes his young son, now almost 2 years old, could live away from the media spotlight, the Paris lawyer, Thierry Lacoste, said in a statement.

"Prince Albert II asks the press to adopt responsible behavior, similar to what it has adopted in similar circumstances for other public figures, and to respect his private life and that of the underage child," the statement said.

It said Albert regretted that the magazine Paris Match went public with the story just weeks after the death of his father, Prince Rainier, in April, adding that Albert had not wanted to comment on the media reports until after the official mourning period, which ended Wednesday.

In a cover story in early May, Paris Match alleged that Albert had fathered a son with former Air France attendant Nicole Coste.

Coste was quoted as saying she met Albert on a flight in July 1997, leading to a relationship and the birth of a child, Alexandre, in August 2003. The interview was illustrated with pictures of the smiling prince holding and feeding a young boy with curly hair.

Coste said she went public with the story because, "I want Alexandre to grow up normally with a father."

Albert, 47 and a bachelor, is the only son of Prince Rainier III and film star Grace Kelly. He took over royal powers in the tiny Riviera principality shortly before his father's death and will formally ascend to the throne on July 12.

Albert caused consternation to his father because of his refusal to wed. He once told an interviewer that he was not opposed to marriage but didn't "want to make a mistake."

Article 10 of Monaco's constitution specifies that only "direct and legitimate" descendants can assume the throne — which would exclude Alexandre. The palace spokesman, Armand Deus, declined to comment on the lawyer's statement or answer questions.

The constitution was revised in 2002 to circumvent the problem posed by Albert's bachelor status. Now, the next in line would be Princess Caroline, the eldest of Albert's two sisters. She, in turn, would be succeeded by her oldest son, Andrea Albert Pierre.

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