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Saudis lavish expensive gifts on white house { August 4 2004 }

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Saudis lavish expensive gifts on White House
Date: August 4 2004

Washington: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince presented $US130,000 ($185,000) worth of fine jewellery to George Bush, his wife, children and top aides in 2003. But the weightiest gift received by the US President's family came in the form of a consignment of raw meat.

The exquisite baubles presented by Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz may have cemented US-Saudi friendship amid tensions over Iraq, but the 136 kilograms of lamb presented by Argentina's President, Nestor Kirchner, probably did more to slake wartime appetites.

Valued at $US1500, Mr Kirchner's meat was the most unusual gift the US President received last year, according to the State Department's annual list of foreign leaders' presents to senior US officials.

Presented to Mr Bush during an official visit to Washington in July during which Mr Kirchner secured US support for a new international loan schedule, the lamb was transferred to the General Services Administration, presumably for distribution to government cafeterias or charity. Under US law, almost all gifts to the President and his top aides must be reported and turned over to the National Archives or other institutions for display.

The State Department said the single most valuable item received in 2003 was a $US95,500 matching set of diamond and sapphire earrings, bracelet and necklace presented to Laura Bush by Crown Prince Abdullah. Mr Bush received a clock in "silver and gold vermeil".

Among the Saudi gifts were two gold and silver daggers for the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, and the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, a sculpture of a horse presented to Dr Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, and an ivory and gold letter opener offered to the Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

From Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, came watercolour portraits of all 43 US presidents, bound in a velvet book studded with precious gems. It is said to be worth $US45,000.

Agence France-Presse

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