Haze causes closure of Sumatra airport

SINGAPORE, JULY 20. Haze, caused by slash and burn methods, caused the temporary closure of Sumatra island's pre-eminent airport today, reports available here stated.

Reviving memories of the choking smoke haze of 1997 across the South-East Asian region, the haze caused a four-hour closure of Polonia airport in Sumatra island's Medan city this morning.

The illegal clearing of land in Riau, a forested province of Indonesia's Sumatra island, is reported to be behind the current haze conditions.The report stated that as many as 50 fires have been reported from both North and South Sumatra.

On Saturday, the haze darkened Malaysian skies in the capital Kuala Lumpur and several other towns.

In a separate development, the Indonesian President, Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid, today presented himself before Parliament in response to a summons, but did not provide any explanation for the sacking of two Ministers in April.

``The dismissal of the two former Ministers was a political decision based on certain policy considerations .... the reasons .... are within the realm of discretionary authority and would be impossible to detail one by one,'' Mr. Wahid was quoted as telling a plenary session of the People's Representative Council. His written reply was read out by an official.