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Seven South American leaders sign forest agreement in Amazon town

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By Daniel Bellamy  with Reuters
Seven South American leaders sign forest agreement in Amazon town

The leaders of seven South American countries have met in the Amazon town of Leticia in Colombia to sign an agreement to better protect the world’s largest tropical forest.

Only two other Amazon states were missing on Friday: Venezuela and France (French Guiana).

The-14 point pact they signed is intended to improve disaster response coordination and satellite monitoring.

It included, at Brazil's request, the reaffirmation of "the sovereign rights of the countries of the Amazon region on their territories and their natural resources".

Brazil's controversial far-right president Jair Bolsonaro didn't attend in person but instead spoke via video link saying: "Our riches will be utilised in a sustainable way, in accordance to the resources that we have."

Bolsonaro has repeatedly expressed support for mining in indigenous reserves and protected areas and has faced international condemnation, in particular from France.

Around 60% of the Amazon is in Brazil and Bolsonaro is accused of allowing farmers to slash and burn more of the forest. Fires there have surged by more than 80% this year.

Other South American leaders spoke of the need to protect the forest, which is popularly referred to as "the lungs of the earth".

"We believe that this is a moral duty, our societies are increasingly aware of the need to protect our shared home, of our Mother Earth," Colombian President Ivan Duque said.