Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The Brazilian government has decided to accept $20 million in foreign aid to fight hundreds of fires burning in the Amazon rain forest, after initially refusing the help.
The aid, allocated at the end of the G7 summit in France this week, is immediately available -- and French President Emmanuel Macron has also offered to send thousands of French troops to help fight the wildfires. Brazil has 44,000 soldiers fighting 1,700 fires in seven Amazon states.
Britain and Canada also added combined pledges of $23 million. The nations offered the aid because the rain forest plays a key role in fighting climate change and produces a great share of the world's oxygen. It's often referred to as the "world's lungs."
"This money, when it enters the country, will have the total governance of the Brazilian people," presidential spokesman Rego Barros said.
Brazil initially said it didn't need the money and accused foreign governments of seeking control of the Amazon. The stance led governors in nine Brazilian states to ask Bolsonaro to accept the money.
Macron, who said the Amazon fires are a global concern, has previously questioned Bolsonaro's leadership and commitment to protecting biodiversity.
"We respect your sovereignty. It's your country," he said. "But we cannot allow you to destroy everything."
Bolsonaro said the remarks were an insult and suggested France was eyeing colonial interests in Brazil. He also criticized Macron for the fire that heavily damaged Paris' historic Notre Dame cathedral in April.
"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."
"I have gotten to know President Jair Bolsonaro well in our dealings with Brazil," U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted. "He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil -- Not easy."