SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Friday defended his decision to reveal the authorities had spotted possible wreckage from a missing Malaysia Airlines plane, saying he owed it to the families affected.
Mr Abbott told Parliament in Canberra on Thursday that satellite images had shown two objects in the southern Indian Ocean which could have come from flight MH370, raising hopes of a breakthrough in the Malaysian plane's mysterious disappearance.
Asked whether he had "jumped the gun" on the release of the information, given that the grainy images taken Sunday were indistinct, he said the families of those onboard were owed the information.
"We owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones of the almost 240 people on Flight MH370 to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle," he told reporters. "We owe it to them to do everything we can to resolve this and because of the understandable state of anxiety and apprehension that they're in, we also owe it to them to give them information as soon as it's to hand and I think I was doing that yesterday in the Parliament."
Details about MH370 have been clouded by mystery and misinformation since it went missing on March 8, with 239 people on board as it headed from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Speculation about the fate of the flight as ranged from hijacking to pilot suicide, with the Malaysian authorities unable to say definitively whether it was headed north or south when it vanished.
Nearly two-thirds of the passengers on board were Chinese nationals and their angry relatives have protested Malaysia's handling of the crisis, accusing them of withholding information and not doing enough to find the plane.
Malaysia on Tuesday asked Australia to take charge of the southern vector of the search.
Mr Abbott said Thursday the satellite images represented new and "credible" information while stressing that any link with flight MH370 had still to be confirmed.
"Since then, we've been throwing everything we've got at that area to try to learn more about what this debris might be," he told journalists in the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby.
"Now, it could just be a container that's fallen off a ship. We just don't know," he said, adding that additional information from the Australian authorities, who are leading the southern end of the search, would be made available as soon as possible.
"Australia will do its duty. It's about the most inaccessible spot you could imagine on the face of the Earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it."