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Belgium and the Democratic Republic of Congo scrambled Friday to defuse a burgeoning scandal over diamond jewels offered by the impoverished country's government to Belgian Queen Paola.
The Belgian royal palace confirmed the gift, but the Congolese embassy insisted that President Joseph Kabila had only given commemorative watches to guests during celebrations of 50 years of independence from Belgium last week.
"A gift of choice and certainly with a high price," said the newspaper La Derniere Heure.
The daily revealed this week that the DR Congo's presidential office had given "a magnificent set of diamond jewellery and precious stones during the last night of the trip."
The royal palace said the queen was given a necklace, a bracelet and earrings but that the gift would be given to the Belgian state, although they would remain at the disposal of the royal family.
The DR Congo's embassy in Brussels denied that the president had offered any jewels to the queen, saying that Kabila offered "a watch with an effigy of the 50th anniversary" to all his guests, including the Belgian royal couple.
The Belgian royal couple's press adviser, Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw, told AFP the jewels had been a gift from the Congolese first lady.
"Nobody questions the existence of jewels offered to the queen by the wife of president Kabila," he said.
© 2010 AFP
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