Arabs lavish jewels on Secretary of State Rice
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
President George W. Bush's foreign policies may be unpopular in the Middle East, but Arab leaders showered his top diplomat with jewelry worth far more than a quarter of a million dollars last year.
While Bush himself didn't fare nearly as well, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raked in at least $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 in 2007.
In January, Jordan's King Abdullah II gave Rice an emerald and diamond necklace, ring, bracelet and earrings estimated to be worth $147,000, according to the State Department's annual inventory of such items released Monday just in time for Christmas.
The king and his wife, Queen Rania, also gave Rice a less expensive necklace and earrings along with a jewelry box valued at $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 $165,000 in July. The inventory also includes a $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 $100,000 in gifts in 2007, the list shows.
Other gifts include an $85,000 sapphire and diamond jewelry set and $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.
Unfortunately for the Bushes, Rice and other recipients, they won't 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 State Department's Office of Protocol, catalogues all gifts given to top administration officials. The presents range from the modest - a $6 assortment of nuts and dried fruit from the Dalai Lama to Mrs. Bush - to the extravagant - Rice's jewelry - and the odd - a $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 $150 bronze platypus paperweight from an Australian official. The prime minister of Singapore gave Bush $450 worth of fitness equipment, including a "uSurf Wave Action Exerciser" and an "iGallop Core and Abs Exerciser," according to the documents, which offer a window into the tastes of foreign leaders.
The wife of Japan's former prime minister Shinzo Abe appears to be an animal lover, having given Laura Bush two red, white and blue hand-embroidered pillows with American flag designs and the names and images of first dogs Barney and Miss Beazley worth $100 last year.
She also gave the first lady a $700 porcelain Limoges box with the two pets painted on it and a stuffed black fleece Scotty toy valued at $100, the inventory shows.
Some gifts reflect the recipient's specialty. Gen. Peter Pace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff received two machine guns - one mounted - worth $1,300 from his Colombian and Russian counterparts, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates got a $3,200 decorative Arab knife from a Bahraini official and a steel dagger valued at $345 from the Jordanian king.
The source of gifts to US intelligence officials is classified, but CIA chief Michael Hayden took in $8,000 in gifts, including a sword, fountain pen and silk rug, in 2007.
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