Sharif bagged the coveted award at a glittering ceremony on Saturday for his role as a Muslim shopkeeper in the drama Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fluers du Koran (Monsieur Ibrahim).

The other top winners of the night were Clint Eastwood for his film Mystic River and Quebec-born director Denys Arcand for The Barbarian Invasions.

Acclaim

Jointly produced by Canada and France, The Barbarian Invasions outshone the rest, walking away with the best picture, best director and best original screenplay prizes.

Mystic River, a powerful story of violence and vengeance, directed by Clint Eastwood, was adjudged the best foreign film.

The honours came one week before the US Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on 29 February, in which Arcand's movie is competing for Oscars for best foreign-language film and best original screenplay.

The ceremony in Paris, attended by France's top entertainment figures, was broadcast live on national television.

Outside, about 100 stage workers and actors held a protest against recent government cutbacks in welfare funds for the show business.