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Activists Disappointed By Bush Decision to Attend Olympics Opening

Human rights activists say they are disappointed by U.S. President George Bush's decision to attend the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

U.S. lawmakers and activist groups have urged Mr. Bush not to attend the ceremony to protest China's human rights record and its policies toward Sudan regarding its war-torn Darfur region.

Groups such as Save Darfur Coalition and Reporters Without Borders voiced their disappointment Friday, saying the decision would make it more difficult for the United States to pressure Chinese authorities on human rights or its policies overseas.

On Thursday, a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, confirmed for the first time that Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush would attend.

Perino said Mr. Bush would also meet with Chinese officials during the games and discuss human rights and freedom of religion.

Over the past year, and in the wake of China's crackdown on protests in Tibet, the question of whether heads of state should attend the opening ceremony has become a controversial issue.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel are among those who have confirmed they will not attend the gathering.

French newspaper Le Monde Friday said that France's President Nicolas Sarkozy will attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony on August 8. He had linked his attendance to progress in the ongoing talks between China and representatives of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Envoys for the two sides have met twice since a government crackdown on protesters in Tibet's capital Lhasa in March.