Indonesia agrees to expedite meeting on haze

Malaysian Environment and Natural Resources Minister G. Palanivel, right, talks with Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya after a meeting on haze in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, June 27, 2013. Each year, forest fires on Sumatra and Borneo islands smother parts of nearby Singapore and Malaysia in haze. The Indonesian government usually blames plantation owners and traditional farmers for illegally setting fires as a cheap way to clear land. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesia agreed Thursday to move up a regional meeting on forest fires on Sumatra island that have caused record-setting pollution in the country and neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

Minister of Environment Balthasar Kambuaya said that Indonesia supports a Malaysian proposal to hold the ministerial meeting on transboundary haze pollution early next month instead of in August as was scheduled.

"Malaysia proposes it to be expedited to early July, and Indonesia supports that," Kambuaya said after meeting with his Malaysian counterpart G. Palanivel.

Other participants in the meeting are Brunei, Singapore and Thailand.

Kambuaya said he told Palanivel what steps have been taken by Indonesia to overcome the haze problem.

Palanivel said his country was ready to help Indonesia to fight the fires.

"The most important thing at this moment is to control the haze situation in Sumatra, with all of potential that we have, including by cloud-seeding, water bombing and firefighters," Palanivel said.

Indonesia has formally apologized to Singapore and Malaysia over the haze that has affected air quality and caused respiratory problems in the three countries.

He said police have arrested 14 farmers accused of setting illegal fires. The fires are a cheap way for farmers to clear their land.

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