|(Flight MH370) Australia to host three-way meeting on search operations
Australia will host a meeting with Malaysia and China next week to determine the way forward in the frustrating search for flight MH370, officials said in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
The Canberra meeting, announced by Australia's MH370 search chief Angus Houston, follows the decision this week to scale back the costly search operation in the Indian Ocean that has so far turned up no evidence that the Malaysia Airlines jet crashed, AFP reports.
"That's a very important meeting because it will formalise the way ahead to ensure that this search continues with urgency and doesn't stop at any stage,'' said Houston, who is on a brief visit to Malaysia.
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who spoke to reporters in Kuala Lumpur along with Houston, said he would attend.
Officials have said recently that more sophisticated assets may need to be brought in for the so-far fruitless search of the Indian Ocean seabed for wreckage.
An intensive aerial search for surface wreckage from flight MH370 officially ended Wednesday, with ships also moving out of the remote search zone.
Australian authorities have said the focus would move "over the coming weeks'' to an intensified undersea search.
The jet disappeared on March 8 with 239 people aboard and is believed to have inexplicably diverted to the Indian Ocean and crashed, but no evidence has been found.
Officials have said the focus will shift to an expanded underwater search with a sophisticated US Navy sonar device across a huge swathe of seabed.
While saying the challenge was immense, Houston said he was confident MH370 will eventually be found.
"We are totally committed, as three nations I believe, to finding MH370 and I am confident that with an effective search we will find the aircraft,'' he said.
China is involved because two-thirds of the passengers were Chinese.
The submersible Bluefin-21 has been scouring the seabed in an area where undersea transmissions were detected, believed to have come from the plane's black box flight recorders before their batteries died.
Houston said the Bluefin-21 would continue scanning until the end of May. He did not specify what would happen afterwards but said it could take between eight to 12 months to fully search the suspected crash area.
The zone was determined based on an analysis of imprecise data from satellites that detected the plane as if flew.
Hishammuddin and Houston both said they still believed the search was in the right area.
Authorities earlier this week dismissed claims by an Australia-based marine exploration company that it had detected elements in the Bay of Bengal, far to the north, consistent with aircraft materials and which could be from MH370.
Houston said three ships from Bangladesh were looking in that area but had so far found nothing.