Asia's green intentions lost in the haze

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Indonesia's President Suharto apologised yesterday for forest fires blanketing its neighbouring nations of Singapore and Malaysia in suffocating smoke. His apology came as he opened a meeting of environment ministers from the nine-member Association of South-East Asian Nations in Singapore. The forest fires are a major talking point in the region and a source of widespread public concern.

"To the communities of neighbouring countries who have been disturbed by the fires in our territory, Indonesia offers its most sincere apologies." Mr Suharto said. He said Jakarta was doing its "level best to prevent and overcome the on-going bush and forest fires raging in our country".

Some environmental specialists argue that Indonesia could do more about what is dubbed "haze" in the region. "The talk has been going on for too long," said Mark Harrison, business services manager at Singapore's Regional Institute of Environmental Technology.

"What we're dealing with is a photochemical smog ... Calling it a haze as we have done for so long is the typical softly, softly Asian approach. I think it's time to be more robust."