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Indonesia to clean up timber exports

JAKARTA, July 6 – Indonesia will launch a new system of independent certification for all timber exports to combat widespread illegal logging, the forestry minister said on Monday.

From September all timber leaving the country must be certified by an independent body of business and NGO representatives, Malam Sambat Kaban told reporters.

"With the existence of Indonesian timber certification, we hope that export destination countries can better accept (imports) and as a consequence should be better able to enforce laws so that they can handle companies that receive illegal timber," Kaban said.

"There is already (certification in Indonesia) but now those giving the certification are independent, non-governmental bodies," he said.

The certification launch comes amid recent measures by developed nations to stem the inflow of illegally obtained forest products, including a 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act in the United States banning trade in illegally sourced plants and plant products.

Indonesia, with vast tracts of rain forest, struggles with high rates of deforestation and illegal logging, aided by poor law enforcement and widespread corruption.

Kaban himself has been accused of being a soft touch on illegal logging after he wrote a letter of recommendation to a Sumatra court two years ago that helped a wealthy timber baron get off charges of illegally logging billions of dollars worth of trees.

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