15 JULY 2003

Tony Blair may be George Bush's greatest international ally when it comes to political matters, but it seems he is somewhat less generous when it comes to buying presents. Because the prime minister's recent gift to Mr Bush – a £200 wash bag – ranks amongst the least lavish the US president has received during his time in power.

The Italians, in contrast, gave him a £20,000 sculpture while Saudi Arabia gifted him a million-pound oil painting.

But thrifty Tony decided that a toiletries bag would be just the thing. It is thought the present, which was embossed with the letters "GWB" in gold, was a reference to their first meeting, when George joked that they shared the same taste in toothpaste.

Ironically, it may be one of the only items Dubya actually gets to keep. Most official gifts received by the president are handed straight over to the national archives. He has to declare anything he wants to hold onto, and only keeps inexpensive items in order to avoid controversy.

So unlike the many extravagant presents that come his way, George's "GWB" washbag may be sitting by the sink in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at this very moment.

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Tony and George both know that it's the thought that countsPhoto: © AFP
Photo: ©
Here the US president is given a flamboyant sombrero by Mexico's Presidente FoxPhoto: © AFP
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