TIRANA, Albania — Whatever happened to the president's watch? One moment President Bush was glad-handing Albanians on Sunday, proudly sporting a watch with a dark strap on his left wrist. Moments later, it was gone.
Did it fall off? Did one of his bodyguards remove it? Or did one of the crowd artfully slip it off his wrist and pocket it?
NBC News video of the president's trip seems to show the president reach toward the wrist with the watch and then move his hand toward his pocket.
The Albanian media - and international Web sites - is buzzing with video showing Bush's wrist watch apparently disappearing while he was shaking hands with people in Fushe Kruje, 15 miles north of Tirana.
The United States Embassy in Albania on Tuesday emphatically denied that Bush's watch was stolen during his visit to the country, where he was acclaimed as a hero. Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said the president had his watch again but did not say what happened to it in Albania.
"What the local media is saying is absolutely not true," said an embassy official, who declined to be named.
People waiting on the sidewalks on Sunday gave Bush a rapturous welcome, shaking hands with him, grabbing him by the arms and wrists, reaching out to embrace him and even ruffling his hair.
Bush was clearly delighted by the attention and plunged back into the crowd for more hand shaking and to be kissed on the cheek.
An Albanian bodyguard who accompanied Bush in the town told The Associated Press he had seen one of his U.S. colleagues close to Bush bend down and pick up the watch.
The Top Channel private TV station showed how one of his bodyguards may have spoken with the president and then taken the watch from his hand.
Bush's visit to the tiny Balkan country, the first ever by a U.S. president, was considered as historic.
Albania issued three postage stamps with Bush's picture and the Statue of Liberty, renamed a street in front of parliament in his honor, awarded him the highest National Flag medal, and the Fushe Kruje town council declared him an honored citizen.
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