Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Sarkozy's generous Obama gifts

Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy hold a joint press conference ahead of the start of the G20 summit in 2011
Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy hold a joint press conference ahead of the start of the G20 summit in 2011

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni were clearly taken with President Barack Obama and his family back in 2011.

The Sarkozys gave the Obamas more than 41,000 dollars (£26,500) worth of presents that year, becoming the most prolific foreign gift-givers to the first family, documents show.

The gifts ranged from designer golf and travel bags and fine crystal to soaps and perfumes, according to the State Department's Office of Protocol, which catalogues gifts to US officials from foreign leaders.

Among the goodies presented to the Obamas by the Sarkozys were a large black Hermes golf accessory bag worth 7,750 dollars, (£5,000), two Baccarat crystal table lamps on silver pedestals worth 5,500 dollars, (£3,550) two Baccarat crystal statuettes depicting golfers, a monogrammed black leather Louis Vuitton business bag, his-and-hers Christian Dior bathrobes and a black leather Dior clutch.

Mr Sarkozy also gave Mr Obama a glass sculpture of Alexander the Great's horse, a Lacoste shirt, a fountain pen and, perhaps in a nod to his tobacco-using days, a Ligne 8 lighter.

The largesse may have been a function of France hosting the G8 summit in 2011, at which the world financial crisis and austerity was a main topic of conversation, but most other leaders' gifts to the Obamas were more modest.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for example, gave the president an autographed Toronto Raptors basketball, while Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard presented him with a green and white iPod shuffle and Australian football jerseys. One exception was artwork worth 13,200 dollars (£8,500) given to Mr Obama by the governor of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

But do not expect the Obamas to furnish a post-White House residence with the items, as under law, most gifts to the President and other US officials must go to the National Archives or General Services Administration unless the recipient reimburses the Treasury for their estimated value.

Although the Sarkozys were the top presidential gift-givers in 2011, the single most valuable package of goodies - 29,450 dollars (£19,000) in art, watches and electronics - was given to former joint chiefs of staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen by Kuwait's emir. Deputy CIA director Michael Morrell may have received the most unusual gift in 2011, a silver hookah worth 1,500 dollars (£970) from a giver whose identity is classified.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not do so badly either in 2011, getting a 3,400 dollar (£2,200) silver bowl and a 7,425 dollar (£4,800) gold coin and silk scarf from the Sultan of Oman, a 3,200 dollar (£2,067) strand of pearls from a senior Chinese official and artwork from the President of Tajikistan worth 2,850 dollars (£1,840). The most lavish gift given to her came from the first lady of Zambia, who presented her with an emerald and diamond necklace worth 7,834 dollars (£5,000).

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