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Updated: Fri, 18 Jul 2014 05:24:54 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Jet was in airspace deemed safe, officials say



Atikah Abdul Rahman, 20, the niece of Captain Wan Amran, who was on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, arrives at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang July 18, 2014. World leaders demanded an international investigation into the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in which all 298 people on board were killed, a tragedy that could further heighten tensions between Russia and the West. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (© MALAYSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT)

Atikah Abdul Rahman, 20, the niece of Captain Wan Amran, who was on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, arrives at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang July 18, 2014. World leaders demanded an international investigation into the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in which all 298 people on board were killed, a tragedy that could further heighten tensions between Russia and the West. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (MALAYSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT) - RTR3Z5AA Olivia Harris

The Malaysia Airlines jetliner that was shot down in war-torn eastern Ukraine did not make any distress call, Malaysia's prime minister said Friday, adding that its flight route had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body.

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Najib Razak, who addressed a news conference after speaking with leaders of Ukraine and the Netherlands, and to U.S. President Barack Obama, said "no stone will be left unturned" in finding out what happened to Flight MH17 and the 298 people on board, all of whom died, including three infants. 

Among those killed was at least one Canadian. 

Najib said the aircraft flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The International Air Transportation Association had also stated that the air space that the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions, he said. Besides, "Malaysia Airlines has confirmed that the aircraft did not make a distress call."

​Still, a former head of airports security group BAA suggested that many airlines including Malaysia Airlines had continued to use the route despite warnings because it was shorter and cheaper.

"It is a busy aviation route and there have been suggestions that a notice was given to aviators telling airlines to avoid that particular area," said Norman Shanks, who is a professor of aviation security at Coventry University in England.

"But Malaysia Airlines, like a number of other carriers, have been continuing to use it because it is a shorter route, which means less fuel and therefore less money," he told The Associated Press.

Missile suspected

A U.S. official said American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile took down the plane, but it is not clear who fired it. He said it appears unlikely the Ukrainian government, which has denied responsibility, shot down the plane because it doesn't have the capabilities. Pro-Russian separatists fighting the government have also denied any responsibility.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed publicly that Ukrainian intelligence agents had intercepted and recorded two telephone conversations that they said showed rebels were responsible. In the first call, the security services said, rebel commander Igor Bezler tells a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane.

In the second, two rebel fighters – one of them at the scene of the crash — say the rocket attack was carried out by a unit of insurgents about 25 kilometres north of the crash site.

Neither recording could be independently verified, and CBC News has not heard either of the alleged conversations. 

Calls for ceasefire

Late Thursday night, the U.S. called for an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine to allow international investigators easy access to the downed plane. On Friday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that the separatist militants agreed to provide safe access and security for investigators after a video conference with militant leaders. 

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Friday on Ukraine.

Ukraine's UN Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev tweeted after Thursday's crash in a rebel-controlled area that "Ukraine will present the evidence of Russian military involvement into the Boeing crash. This crime should be fully investigated."

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