France's Sarkozy "to meet Russia rights activists"

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MOSCOW, Oct 10 (Reuters) French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet Russian human rights activists in Moscow today in a move likely to highlight European concerns about Russia's rights record, a leading activist told Reuters.

Aides to Sarkozy, who is on his first trip to Russia as president, declined to comment on any meeting with human rights activists.

Tatyana Lokshina, head of the Demos non-governmental organisation, said Sarkozy would be meeting members of the Memorial rights group, which is best known for its campaigning against rights abuses in the turbulent Chechnya region.

Lokshina said Sarkozy would meet senior Memorial members Oleg Orlov and Svetlana Gannushkina at 1730 IST after he has finished talks with President Vladimir Putin. ''There will be a meeting with Memorial,'' Lokshina told Reuters.

Orlov and Gannushkina were not answering their mobile telephones.

Speaking to reporters yesterday after he had a working dinner with Putin, Sarkozy said he had raised the issue of human rights in Russia, including Chechnya, gay rights and the murder a year ago of crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Russia's international status is growing ''and it would truly be a shame if that might be tarnished by behaviours which were not understood on our part,'' Sarkozy said.

Reuters SZ DS1300

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