Wed, Dec 24, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Arab chiefs tops in gift giving to US leadership

INVENTORY TIME The US State Department has released a list of items given to the Bushes, Condoleezza Rice and others last year, none of which they can keep

AP , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush’s foreign policies may be unpopular in the Middle East, but Arab leaders showered the top US diplomat with jewelry worth more than US$300,000 last year.

While Bush himself did not fare nearly as well, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raked in at least US$316,000 in gem-encrusted baubles from the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia alone, making her one of top recipients among US officials of gifts from foreign heads of state and government and their aides last year.

In January, Jordan’s King Abdullah II gave Rice an emerald and diamond necklace, ring, bracelet and earrings estimated to be worth US$147,000, the State Department’s annual inventory of such items released on Monday showed.

The king and his wife, Queen Rania, also gave Rice a less expensive necklace and earrings along with a jewelry box valued at US$4,630, the document shows.

Not to be outdone, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia presented Rice with a ruby and diamond necklace with matching earrings, bracelet and ring worth US$165,000 in July. The inventory also includes a US$170,000 flower petal motif necklace the Saudi monarch gave to Rice in 2005, which the department says was not previously disclosed.

From the same Arab leaders, Bush received just over US$100,000 in gifts last year, the list shows.

Other gifts include an US$85,000 sapphire and diamond jewelry set and US$10,000 piece of artwork depicting a desert scene of bedouins, camels and a tent made of gold given to first lady Laura Bush by Saudi King Abdullah.

The Bushes, Rice and other recipients will not be able to enjoy the gifts as they have been turned over to the General Services Administration and government archives in accordance with federal law, which bars officials from accepting personal presents in almost all circumstances.

The inventory, prepared by the State Department’s Office of Protocol, catalogs all gifts given to top administration officials. The presents range from the modest — a US$6 assortment of nuts and dried fruit from the Dalai Lama to Mrs Bush — to the extravagant — Rice’s jewelry — and the odd — a US$570 Brush Cutter with “comfort grip handles” from the Swedish prime minister to the president, presumably for use at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Bush got a US$150 bronze platypus paperweight from an Australian official. Singapore’s prime minister gave Bush US$450 worth of fitness equipment, including a “uSurf Wave Action Exerciser” and an “iGallop Core and Abs Exerciser,” the documents show.

The wife of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe gave Laura Bush two red, white and blue hand-embroidered pillows with American flag designs and the names and images of first dogs worth US$100 last year. She also gave the first lady a US$700 porcelain Limoges box with the two pets painted on it and a stuffed black fleece Scotty toy valued at US$100.

Some gifts reflect the recipient’s specialty. General Peter Pace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff received two machine guns worth US$1,300 from his Colombian and Russian counterparts, while Secretary of Defense Robert Gates got a US$3,200 decorative Arab knife from a Bahraini official.

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