- Australian PM says confident of position of MH370's black box
- Australian PM confident signals are from missing plane's black box
- Venezuela's Maduro and opposition talk as death toll hits 40
Posted: 10 Apr 2014 09:25 PM PDT
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday that searchers were confident they knew the position of the black box flight recorder from a missing Malaysian airliner, but cautioned this was not the same as recovering wreckage.
"We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight recorder to within some kilometres (miles)," he said in a speech in the Chinese commercial capital Shanghai.
"Still, confidence in the approximate position of the black box is not the same as recovering wreckage from almost four and a half kilometres beneath the sea or finally determining all that happened on the flight."
Malaysia Airlines MASM.KL Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, vanished on March 8 and is believed to have flown thousands of kilometres off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route and into the Indian Ocean.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)
Posted: 10 Apr 2014 08:55 PM PDT
PERTH/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The international effort to find a missing Malaysian jetliner was zeroing on a small patch of the Indian Ocean on Friday, but Australia's prime minister warned the signal from what is believed to be the plane's black box was fading.
The Australian agency overseeing the search said it would use some of the most sophisticated resources at its disposal on the small search area after a new acoustic signal, that could be from the plane's black box recorders, was detected on Thursday.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that he was confident that the latest signal, which was captured by a listening device buoy, indicated that the search was focused on the correct area.
"We have very much narrowed down the search area and we are very confident that the signals that we are detecting are from the black box on MH370," Abbott told reporters in Shanghai.
The latest ping seems to lend credence to four previous "pings" detected by a U.S. Navy "Towed Pinger Locator" (TPL) towed by Australia's Ocean Shield vessel.
The mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared more than a month ago, has sparked the most expensive search and rescue operation in aviation history.
The black boxes record cockpit data and may provide answers about what happened to the plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew when it vanished on March 8 and flew thousands of kilometres off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.
But the batteries in the black boxes have already reached the end of their 30-day expected life, making efforts to swiftly locate them on the murky ocean floor all the more critical, Abbott said.
"We are now getting to the stage where the signal from what we are very confident is the black box is starting to fade and we are hoping to get as much information as we can before the signal finally expires," he said.
Search efforts are now focused on three areas.
Aircraft and ships are combing over two large search zones, some 2,390 km (1,485 miles) northwest of Perth, for possible floating debris related to the crash.
But it is the much smaller search zone, just 600 sq km (232 sq miles, located about 1,670 km (1038 miles) northwest of Perth that has generated fresh optimism.
The smaller zone is near where the Ocean Shield picked up the acoustic signals and where dozens of sonobuoys capable of transmitting data to search aircraft via radio signals were dropped on Wednesday.
But experts say the process of teasing out the signals from the cacophony of background noise in the sea is a slow and exhausting process.
An autonomous underwater vehicle named Bluefin-21 is onboard the Ocean Shield and could be deployed to look for wreckage on the sea floor once a final search area has been identified.
(Editing by Michael Perry)
Posted: 10 Apr 2014 08:25 PM PDT
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hosted opposition leaders on Thursday at the start of mediated talks intended to stem two months of political unrest that has killed dozens in the OPEC nation.
The meeting, brokered by foreign ministers from the Unasur bloc of South American governments, took place at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas and was broadcast live on TV.
"The road here was long and complicated, but it was worth it ... we are going to listen patiently, and with respect and tolerance, to the compatriots of the opposition," Maduro said in lengthy opening comments.
He cautioned against unrealistic expectations.
"There are no negotiations here. No pacts. All we're looking for is a model of peaceful coexistence, of mutual tolerance."
Some hardline opposition groups, including the party of jailed protest leader Leopoldo Lopez, boycotted the talks while dozens of demonstrators remain in jail.
Pollsters say approval levels for both Maduro and the opposition have fallen during the crisis, while an already slowing economy has suffered a further drag from the impact of violent clashes on businesses and transport.
Authorities said on Thursday that a policeman was shot dead in western Barquisimeto city while dispersing a demonstration, bringing the official death toll to 40.
Since protests began in early February, about 650 people have been injured, officials say. More than 2,000 people have been detained, and 174 are still behind bars.
OPPOSITION SPEAKS OUT
Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, a top opposition leader, said the face-to-face discussions were long overdue.
"Something has gone very wrong for a meeting between the government and the opposition to be rare," he said, adding that they must find a way to stop the bloodshed.
"Violence must be eradicated at the roots," Aveledo said.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost to Maduro in last year's election to replace late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, attended the meeting and was due to speak later.
Eleven opposition delegates and 11 "Chavistas" were given 10 minutes each to speak after Maduro's opening remarks.
Both sides have called on the Roman Catholic Church to be a "good faith" witness. At the start of Thursday's discussions, the Vatican's envoy to Venezuela read a letter from the Pope, encouraging the efforts to find peace.
Maduro, who calls himself the "son" of Chavez and is seeking to preserve popular oil-funded welfare policies while tinkering with his predecessor's statist economic model, said ahead of the talks that he would talk but not negotiate.
Maduro had said before the talks he would be a "traitor" if he began negotiating away the gains of the revolution.
Hardline protesters have openly sought to provoke a "Venezuelan Spring" that would force him from office, but have failed to bring the millions onto the streets they hoped for. The demonstrators have proved persistent, however, with sporadic roadblocks, marches and other protest tactics in some cities.
Maduro says that if the opposition wants to get rid of him, it would have to be via the ballot only. His foes could force a presidential "recall referendum" in 2016 if they garner about 4 million signatures for it. Maduro's six-year term ends in 2019.
Venezuelans across the political spectrum are fed up with violent crime and economic problems including a 57 percent annual inflation rate and shortages of basic products from milk and flour to toilet-paper and car batteries.
Both sides said those issues would figure high in the talks.
Maduro said he had "positive surprises" for the opposition at the discussions, but gave no details. There have been calls for a goodwill release of former security official Ivan Simonovis, who is serving a 30-year sentence for some shootings during a brief coup against Chavez against 2002.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, Eyanir Chinea and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by James Dalgleish and Ken Wills)
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