Australia 'cautious' in offering aid to fight Amazon fires

Canberra, Aug 28 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said that the fires raging across the Amazon rainforest are "distressing" but that his government must consider its own country's challenges before offering help to fight them.

"I'll be listening carefully to what's put forward, particularly today, I mean it's very distressing," Morrison said in an interview with Sky News posted to his website after the G7 meeting in Biarritz in France.

"But we also have a lot of our own challenges to deal with in Australia. If there's the capability to meet the challenges that are there, well then I would hope that would be the case, but let's just see what they, what requests they make," he added.

Morrison's remarks come after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro declined an offer of $22 million in aid by the G7 group to fight the Amazon wildfires, saying he will only accept it if his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron retracts his statements calling him a liar.

Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying about Brazil's commitment to environmental protection, threatened to not ratify a free trade agreement between the European Union and the Mercosur group, and suggested the possibility of giving the Amazon "international status" to prevent its destruction.

Asked whether blame for the catastrophe lies with the government led by Bolsonaro - who has been backed by US President Donald Trump - Morrison responded: "I don't think it helps to be getting into those sorts of commentaries."

"I think Australians always take a very practical view about this. Where there's a problem, where there's a challenge, where there's a need, if we can play a meaningful role, then we'll obviously consider that but we won't be in the business of running around offering countries lectures," he said.

A record number of fires burning in Brazil, most of them in the Amazon region.

--IANS

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