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Bolsonaro mobilises Brazilian army to combat Amazon fires

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Bolsonaro mobilises Brazilian army to combat Amazon fires
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REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has signed off on deploying the army to fight fires in the Amazon rainforest, the governor of the Amazon state of Roraima has said.

Soldiers were to be deployed in nature reserves, as well as on indigenous lands, and in border areas ravaged by the blazes.

It came amid growing criticism for Bolsonaro and his administration from the international community.

The move appeared to be a climbdown from the president, who has remained defiant concerning the fires, despite Brazil's national institute for space research (INPE) reporting nearly 2,500 of new fires in 48 hours on Wednesday and Thursday.

Some countries threatened to target the Brazilian economy if it did not take action to stop the blazes.

Both France and Ireland said they would not ratify the EU-Mercosur trade deal, and Finland's finance minister called on the EU to consider banning Brazilian beef imports.

French President Emmanuel Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying about his stance on climate change.

The Brazilian leader said forest fires "exist in the whole world" and "cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions," during a televised address on Friday.

Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the wildfires to be discussed at the G7 summit, which kicked off on Saturday.

Read more: 'Our house is burning': Macron urges G7 leaders to discuss Amazon fire

"Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produce 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon," Macron tweeted on Thursday, a few days before the start of the G7 summit in Biarritz.

Johnson reiterated the French leader's sentiments: “The prime minister is deeply concerned by the increase in fires in the Amazon rainforest and the impact of the tragic loss of these precious habitats,” said a spokeswoman.

A NASA scientist called Bolsonaro out on his stance on Friday, using satellite images to back up his position.

Doug Morton also spoke out for the INPE, the federal agency monitoring deforestation and wildfires, whose director was forced to step down in early August after standing up to the president's accusations that deforestation data had been altered to damage the reputation of his administration.

Read more: Scientists mythbust Bolsonaro claims on Amazon fires with satellite images

Around 60% of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil — its degradation could have severe consequences for global climate and rainfall.

Some social media who have called for action concerning the blazes have labelled the Amazon "the lungs of the planet".