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Indonesian fires prompt president to return from US

Indonesia's president is now slated to return early from an official trip to Washington due to a haze crisis caused by raging peat fires. Nearly 100,000 active fires have been detected in Indonesia so far in 2015.

Thailand Smog Rauch von Waldbränden in Indonesien

Smog and haze have spread as officials struggle to contain the fires

"The president will return a day earlier and will not be going to the west coast of the US," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said. Widodo will fly back on Tuesday evening.

Widodo, who arrived in Washington on Sunday, said that planned meetings with Apple and Google in Silicon Valley later in the week would go ahead without him. The meetings are aimed at attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investment into Indonesia's tech sector.

"I have asked several ministers to proceed with the meetings with the CEOs on the west coast," said Widodo said in a statement released by the presidential palace in Jakarta. He said he would fly directly to the haze-affected areas.

Thousands of Indonesians are suffering from respiratory diseases because of the haze, which has also caused school closures and flight disruptions.

Indonesia's disaster management agency said late on Monday haze had begun drifting south towards Java island, where more than half of Indonesia's population lives. The smouldering forest fires have also affected the wider Southeast Asia region.

Climate on the agenda

On Monday, Widodo met US President Barack Obama, and they discussed climate change ahead of a UN climate summit in Paris in December.

Obama said later it was important for large countries like the United States and Indonesia "to arrive at the strongest possible set of targets and international agreements when we arrive in Paris."

Indonesia's president also pledged that his country would join Obama's trans-Pacific trade deal (TPP).

av/gsw (DPA, AP, Reuters)

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