PM hopes for swift action on haze

SINGAPORE - Singapore "wholeheartedly" accepts Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's "gracious" apology for the haze, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Mr Lee also welcomed Dr Yudhoyono's promise to spare no effort in tackling the problem that has sent air quality into unhealthy and hazardous levels in Singapore and Malaysia.

Referring to Dr Yudhoyono's pledge, made in a televised press conference on Monday, that the Indonesian police would take the necessary legal action against those responsible for the forest fires that have produced the haze, Mr Lee said he hoped for "swift and sustained action".

He also reiterated Singapore's offer of assistance to Indonesia to put out the fires.

"Singapore stands ready to work closely with Indonesia, Malaysia and others in the region to bring to an end the haze-related problems which have plagued our region. We need to put in place a permanent solution to prevent this problem from recurring annually," he said.

Meanwhile, authorities have arrested eight farmers for setting the illegal fires in Sumatra, AP reported from Riau, a province of Indonesia.

They were caught "red-handed" on Tuesday and on Monday, a local police spokesman said.