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INDONESIA CRACKS DOWN ON FOREST FIRES

Indonesia began cracking down Friday on companies suspected of starting the forest and brush fires that have shrouded much of Southeast Asia with an eye-burning haze for weeks.

The Forestry Ministry revoked the operating permits of 29 companies after they failed to respond to accusations they started illegal fires, the official Antara news agency said. Hundreds of fires set to clear land cheaply have been burning out of control across Indonesia for two months. A thick smog cloud has drifted to neighboring Malaysia, southern Thailand and parts of the Philippines, as well as Singapore and Brunei.

Critics have complained that Indonesia has not been doing enough to punish the culprits and put out the flames, which have burned about 1.5 million acres of land. Several other countries have offered fire-fighting assistance.

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