Albert is Regent as hopes fade for Rainier

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Prince Albert of Monaco was declared Regent of the principality on the French Mediterranean coast last night as hopes faded for the recovery of his father, Prince Rainier, who has been in a critical condition in a heart and lung unit for the past 10 days.

Prince Albert of Monaco was declared Regent of the principality on the French Mediterranean coast last night as hopes faded for the recovery of his father, Prince Rainier, who has been in a critical condition in a heart and lung unit for the past 10 days.

Although there has been no further decline in the monarch's condition since he was placed on renal dialysis on Monday, the decision by the principality's Crown Council - equivalent to Privy Council - was seen as a recognition that Prince Rainier, 81, is unlikely to recover.

A communique from the palace said: "In accordance with the statutes governing the sovereign family, the Crown Council, called by the Secretary of State ... has noted the inability of his most serene highness Prince Rainier III to exercise his important duties. From now on the Regency is entrusted to His Modest Serene Highness Prince Albert."

Although Albert has not taken over the throne, he issued a statement to the people of Monaco saying: "Faced with the difficulty for my father in exercising his high functions, I will assume all of the royal powers in his name. I wish to assure you that I will devote myself to the role with force, conviction and passion."

He expressed appreciation to his two sisters, Caroline and Stephanie, in "these particularly difficult times for us all".

Earlier, a medical bulletin had said the dialysis treatment had stabilised the monarch's vital signs and there had been "no significant change" in his condition.

Prince Rainier, the oldest reigning monarch in Europe, has ruled the tiny state, roughly the size of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, since 1949. He has transformed the country from a sleepy town with a casino into a thriving tax haven for the super-rich and an offshore banking centre, alleged by the OECD to turn a blind eye to money laundering.

His marriage to the American actress Grace Kelly in 1956 focused an unrelenting media spotlight on Monaco, which has not lifted since the death of Princess Grace in a car accident in 1982. Yesterday the local newspaper Nice Matin accused the French celebrity magazine VSD of running a six-year-old interview with Prince Rainier in its latest edition and trying to pass it off as new.

In an article headed "indecent deception" the paper said it was taking legal action against VSD for lifting in its entirety a question and answer interview with Prince Rainier published in Nice Matin in 1999.

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