Sarkozy urges French firms to shun Myanmar

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PARIS, Sep 26 (Reuters) French President Nicolas Sarkozy today urged French firms, including the oil company Total, to freeze investment in Myanmar, which is facing its biggest street protests in 20 years.

''France calls on all of its private companies, for example Total, to show the greatest restraint in their investments in Myanmar, and to not make any new ones,'' Sarkozy told reporters after meeting Myanmar opposition politicians.

''The situation is extremely worrying and we cannot accept behaviour that would run counter to human rights and the right to protest ... France will not let the Myanmar opposition be muzzled,'' he added.

A spokeswoman for Total declined immediate comment.

The oil firm's presence in Myanmar, where it leads a consortium that extracts gas offshore, has been frequently attacked by human rights activists.

''Total's presence in Myanmar since 1992 has generated considerable controversy,'' the company notes on its Web site.

''Although Total shares the concerns of the international community about the human rights situation in Myanmar, we believe that our presence has positive lasting benefits for the region,'' it says.

Reuters KK VP0040

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