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MH370 search head to lead Australian probe of MH17

By Agencies in Sydney, Australia (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-22 07:35

The former Australian defense force official who led the international search for the wreckage of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 arrived in Kiev on Monday to lead a 45-member team of inspectors at the MH17 crash site.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a news conference on Monday that former Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston has been sent to the Ukraine capital as his "personal envoy" to ensure that "justice is done".

There were 37 Australians on board Flight MH17, including 28 citizens and a number of other residents, making the crash the worst Australian airline disaster in more than 50 years.

Abbott said the state of affairs at the crash site was "an absolutely shambolic situation," and it is "imperative that we get a properly secured site, and a proper investigation".

"In order to bring them home, we have to first get them out. That is what all of our energies and efforts are directed to-getting them out and getting them home," he told reporters.

An Australian air force transport plane was on standby if needed for this purpose, he said.

MH370 search head to lead Australian probe of MH17

Abbott, speaking on a breakfast radio show, said he had spoken "overnight" to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time about the disaster, amid mounting horror over the treatment of victims' remains.

Abbott said he was ensured that Australian investigators would have "full and unfettered access to the site".

"The mood of the leaders I have spoken to is firmer and sterner now than it was ... and as it should be as more and more facts emerge," he said.

"As for my conversation with Mr Putin, I'm not going to go into details ... To Mr Putin's credit, he did say all the right things. The challenge now is to hold the president to his word."

Australia has declared a time of national mourning for the next two weeks for the victims of the plane crash in Ukraine, Abbott said.

According to ITAR-Tass, he said Australian experts had arrived in Kiev and were waiting to leave for the crash site.

Abbott said the government was considering declaring the crash a terrorist attack. If that is done, the victims' relatives would have a right to receive A$75,000 in compensation.

In a telephone call, Putin and his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, stressed the importance of the earliest possible launch of a comprehensive and objective international investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization into the circumstances of the crash, the Kremlin news service said.

Xinhua - Reuters

(China Daily 07/22/2014 page11)

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