Ex-French president top gift giver to Obama family

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his supermodel wife Carla Bruni were clearly taken with President Barack Obama and his family back in 2011.

The Sarkozys gave the Obamas more than US$41,000 (S$50,800) worth of presents that year, becoming the most prolific foreign gift-givers to the first family, documents released Friday 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 United States (US) officials from foreign leaders and publishes an annual accounting, often one or two years late due to processing.

Among the goodies presented to the Obamas by the Sarkozys were a large black Hermes golf accessory bag worth US$7,750, two Baccarat crystal table lamps on silver pedestals worth US$5,500, 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.

But don't expect the Obamas to furnish a post-White House residence with the items, because under law, most non-perishable gifts to the president and other US officials must be to the National Archives or General Services Administration unless the recipient reimburses the Treasury for their estimated value.

The Sarkozys largesse may have been a function of France hosting the Group of Eight summit in 2011, at which the world financial crisis 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 presented him with a green and white iPod shuffle and Australian football jerseys.

One exception was a variety of artwork worth US$13,200 that was given to Mr Obama by the governor of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Although the Sarkozys were the top presidential gift-givers in 2011, the single most valuable package of goodies - US$29,450 in art, watches and electronics - was given to former joint chiefs of staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen by Kuwait's emir.

Deputy Central Intelligence Agency director Michael Morrell may have received the most unusual gift in 2011, a silver hookah worth US$1,500 from a giver whose identity is classified.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't make out so badly either in 2011, getting a US$3,400 silver bowl and a US$7,425 gold coin and silk scarf from the Sultan of Oman, a US$3,200 strand of pearls from a senior Chinese official and artwork from the President of Tajikistan worth US$2,850.

The most lavish gift given to Mrs Clinton came from the first lady of Zambia, who presented her with an emerald and diamond necklace worth US$7,834, according to the records.

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