Obama nets $300,000 in Saudi diplomatic gifts

King Abdullah top present giver, gifting $190,000 in luxury gems to first family
Obama nets $300,000 in Saudi diplomatic gifts
Saudi King Abdullah with US President Barack Obama
By Joanne Bladd
Wed 19 Jan 2011 06:05 PM

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah showered US President Barack Obama, his family and staff with more than $300,000 worth of jewellery, ornaments and rare books during his first year in office.

The monarch of the oil-rich Gulf state was by far the most generous foreign leader, according to documents released by the US Federal Register, gifting Obama, his wife and daughters nearly $190,000 in luxury gems.

A ruby and diamond jewellery set, given by the king to Michelle Obama, was worth $132,000.

Among the gifts Obama received from King Abdullah was a marble ornament adorned with miniature gold palm trees and camels, and a Jaeger-LeCoultre brass clock.

Daughters Sasha and Malia Obama each received diamond earrings and necklaces worth more than $7,000.

Top White House aides were also on the receiving end of King Abdullah’s generosity, collecting watches, bracelets, cufflinks and pens valued at between $5,000 and $9,000.

Next in line was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose presents of watches, silk ties, a crystal table and candlesticks were worth just under $33,000; or less than 10 percent of the Saudi haul.

Chinese President Hu Jintao gave Obama a “framed and matted fine silk embroidery depicting a portrait study of the First Family,” valued at $20,000, the register said.

Ghana’s first lady, Ernestina Naadu Mills, gifted Michelle Obama a Backes and Strauss watch, crafted in “18 carat gold with diamonds and leather.”

The Queen of England favoured more modest presents for the first family, opting for framed portraits of herself and her husband, worth a mere $775.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered the US leader $521 in gifts, including the least expensive item listed by the Federal Register: a $75 bottle of olive oil.

All the presents are handed over to the National Archives as US law bars any government official from receiving a present from a foreign government.

Obama and others accepted the gifts because "non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and US government," the register said.


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