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    Sep 29, 2015

    Indonesia open to help on fighting fire: VP


    JAKARTA welcomes any country, including Singapore, that wants to help extinguish forest and land fires in Indonesia to remove the haze, the local media quoted Vice-President Jusuf Kalla as saying.

    "Go ahead, we are open. Singapore can come and see for themselves if they want to help. Don't just talk," said Mr Kalla on Sunday in New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly, reported Indonesia's Antara news agency.

    Singapore has expressed frustration with Indonesia over the haze, which has affected its air quality, Jakarta Post pointed out.

    Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam has urged for long-term solutions to stop the haze problem from recurring annually.

    "The Indonesian government has said that it is taking steps to deal with the problem. We hope those steps will lead to lasting outcomes and we are prepared to work with Indonesia on this," Mr Shanmugam said in a Facebook post last week.

    The post came after Mr Kalla said in New York last week that Indonesia need not apologise to its neighbours over the haze as its green environment and forests had provided them fresh air in normal times - a view he had plugged in past years.

    Yesterday, Indonesian Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki said Singapore should remember it has enjoyed his country's forest products and oxygen supply for nine months this year before encountering the haze, reported the online portal Detik.

    Mr Kalla has earlier invited Singapore to help deal with the current haze, but Indonesia annulled the invitation when it sent troops to put out the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan in the middle of this month.

    According to Mr Kalla, Jakarta had worked hard to eliminate the fires, but the weather and wind condition prevented it from doing so in a short time.

    Separately, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said she had explained to Mr Shanmugam the steps that Jakarta had taken to tackle the fires.

    "Indonesia is very serious about solving the issue and the efforts include law enforcement and education," said Ms Retno.

    Yesterday, Malaysia ordered some schools to close as the air quality in areas surrounding Kuala Lumpur worsened to "very unhealthy" levels over the weekend, reported Bloomberg.

    Last week, Singapore named four Indonesian companies that it says may have contributed to the fires, and said it would apply more pressure on palm-oil and forestry companies that have started the burning to clear lands.