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Myanmar's President Thein Sein. UPI File/Stephen Shaver

WASHINGTON, July 12 (UPI) -- Human rights groups expressed "grave concern" over a White House decision to allow U.S. investors into Myanmar's oil and natural gas sector.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order authorizing U.S. investments in Myanmar. Certain limitations were made for the country's Defense Ministry and for sanctioned entities and individuals.

Last week, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he was "very interested" in getting U.S. oil and natural gas companies into the country as quickly as possible.

Freedom House, Physicians for Human Rights, U.S. Campaign for Burma, Myanmar's alternate name, and United to End Genocide signed a joint declaration expressing "grave concern" over the decision to allow U.S. investors into the country. They said it would likely worsen the human rights situation in the country.

Arvind Ganesan, a business director at Human Rights Watch, said in a separate statement the White House should have linked rights issues to the provision. Ganesan said it appears the Obama administration "caved to industry pressure" by its decision to allow deals with the state-owned oil Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.

French supermajor Total said that, as of 2007, Myanmar was producing around 180,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, with 90 percent of that represented by natural gas.

Source: United Press International