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Sarkozy will attend Beijing Games - media

July 4, 2008

July 4, 2008

PARIS, July 4 (Reuters) -- French media said on Friday that President
Nicolas Sarkozy will attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing
Olympics, prompting howls from human rights groups.

His office declined to comment on the report by RMC radio and BFM
television, saying an announcement would be made next week.

Human rights groups said Sarkozy's presence at the Games next month
would be a slap in the face to dissidents fighting for greater
democracy in China.

"This is a stab in the back to Chinese dissidents," Robert Menard,
head of media watchdog Reporters without Borders, told i-Tele
television channel. "This is truly cowardly and is the opposite of
what one expects from France."

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Thursday he would go to the
Aug. 8 event, ignoring calls by activists for world leaders to
boycott the Games to protest against China's human rights record.

Sarkozy said last year he wanted to go to the Games but hit the pause
button this year after an outburst of unrest against Chinese rule in
Tibet, which Beijing was swift to stamp out.

Human rights groups in France have helped lead the charge against
Chinese authorities and brought chaos to the streets of Paris in
April when the Olympic torch relay came to the city.

They reacted with dismay to reports of Sarkozy's decision. (Writing
by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Stephen Weeks)
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