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  • A tract of the Amazon jungle burning is seen in Canarana, Mato Grosso state, Brazil August 26, 2019.

    A tract of the Amazon jungle burning is seen in Canarana, Mato Grosso state, Brazil August 26, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 August 2019

"First of all, Macron has to withdraw his insults. He called me a liar. Before we talk or accept anything from France...," Bolsonaro said.

Brazil will reject an offer of at least US$20 million from the Group of Seven (G7) nations to fight fires in the Amazon rainforest unless French President Emmanuel Macron withdraws his "insults," President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday.

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The two leaders have become embroiled in a deeply personal and public war of words in recent days, with Bolsonaro mocking Macron's wife on Facebook and accused the French leader of disrespecting Brazil's sovereignty.

Bolsonaro's Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni also said Brazil would reject the G7 offer, according to news website G1, although his office said that was his personal view.

Speaking to reporters in Brasilia Tuesday, Bolsonaro said, "Did I say that? Did I?" when questioned about Lorenzoni's comments.

"First of all, Macron has to withdraw his insults. He called me a liar. Before we talk or accept anything from France ... he must withdraw these words then we can talk," Bolsonaro said. "First he withdraws, then offers (aid), then I will answer."

Macron last week accused Bolsonaro of lying about his environmental commitments, while the Brazilian leader has mocked the looks of the French leader’s wife who is older than him.

Macron made the offer of financial aid at the G7 summit in the southern French town of Biarritz Monday after leaders had discussed the fires ravaging the world's largest tropical rainforest - often dubbed "the lungs of the world".

Lorenzoni said, "Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world's heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?"

The number of blazes recorded across the Brazilian Amazon has risen 79% this year through Aug. 25, according to Brazil's space research agency. The fires are not limited to Brazil, with at least 10,000 square kilometers (about 3,800 square miles) burning in Bolivia, near its border with Paraguay and Brazil.

But Brazil is at the epicenter of the blazes, which Bolsonaro has blamed on environmentalists, non-government organizations and the weather. He has also said fires in the Amazon were more prevalent under previous left-wing governments.

However, he has always been against protecting Amazon and in favor of opening it up for agricultural businesses. After much pressure, he finally authorized the military to help tackle the fire. 

Weak rainfall is unlikely to extinguish a record number of fires raging in Brazil's Amazon anytime soon, with pockets of precipitation through Sept. 10 expected to bring only isolated relief, according to weather data and two experts.

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