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Tuesday, April 14, 1998 Published at 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Indonesian environment minister criticises government over fires

The Indonesian environment minister, Juwono Sudarsono, has likened Indonesia's province on the island of Borneo to the American Wild West because of what he sees as the government's inadequate reponse to big forest fires there.

The minister said it was like a country without a government, and officials in Jakarta had failed to appreciate the scale of the problem.

He added he might only be listened to if the haze caused by the fires reached the capital.

The authorities in neighbouring Malaysia, which is badly affected by the smog, have announced a nationwide campaign to locate fires and to prosecute anyone caught starting them.

The fires in East Kalimantan have destroyed an estimated 200,000 hectares of forest since January and there are fears that they could spread further as the dry season approaches.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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