France expressed worry Wednesday that Pakistan's decision to allow local leaders in a strife-torn northwestern region impose Sharia law would mark a setback for girls and womens' rights. "We are concerned by the decision of the government of NWFP to sign a deal authorising the imposition of Sharia in the Malakand district of the Swat valley," foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said. "While we understand the need to seek reconciliation in regions suffering from armed conflict, France calls for the respect of fundamental freedoms, notably the right to education, including the education of girls. "This an internationally recognised fundamental right and a precondition of social and economic development," Chevallier told reporters.