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    Mar 24, 2014

    French sighting boosts debris hunt


    NEW French satellite images show what could be debris from a missing Malaysian airliner deep in the southern Indian Ocean, Malaysia said yesterday

    , adding to growing signs that the plane might have gone down in remote seas off Australia.

    The latest lead comes as the international search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 entered its third week, with still no confirmed trace of the Boeing 777 that vanished with 239 people on board.

    "This morning, Malaysia received new satellite images from the French authorities showing potential objects in the vicinity of the southern corridor," the Malaysian Transport Ministry said in a statement. "Malaysia immediately relayed these images to the Australian rescue coordination centre."

    The statement gave no details as to whether the objects were in the same vicinity as the other possible finds in a vast swathe of some of the most inhospitable sea territory on earth.

    Australian officials also said a wooden cargo pallet, along with belts or straps, was spotted on Saturday in the search area.

    Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said there was "increasing hope" of a breakthrough in the hunt for the plane, on the strength of Chinese and Australian satellite images of possible large debris from the plane in the southern search area.

    China said the object was 22m long and 13m wide, and spotted about 120km "south by west" of potential debris reported by Australia off its west coast.

    It could not easily be determined from the blurred images whether the objects were the same as those detected by Australia, but the Chinese photograph could depict a cluster of smaller objects, said a senior military officer from one of the 26 nations involved in the search for the plane.

    Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens early on March 8, less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a scheduled flight to Beijing.

    Investigators believe someone on the flight shut off the plane's communications systems, and partial military radar tracking showed it turning west and re-crossing the Malay Peninsula, apparently under the control of a skilled pilot.

    Early yesterday, British tabloid The Daily Mail reported that the captain of the missing airliner received a two-minute call shortly before take-off from a mystery woman using a mobile phone number obtained under a false identity.

    Malaysian police later refuted the claims.