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US calls for ‘prompt’ and ‘unimpeded’ probe of downed plane

US President Barack Obama called Thursday for a “prompt” and “unimpeded” investigation into the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine.

There were 298 people, including 154 Dutch nationals, on board the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed in strife-torn eastern Ukraine, according to the carrier. None of them were believed to have survived the tragedy.

During a call with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Obama expressed condolences for the “tragic death” of the Dutch citizens.

He told Rutte “the United States was prepared to contribute immediate assistance to support a prompt, full, credible and unimpeded international investigation,” according to a White House statement.

“The president and prime minister agreed on the need to assure immediate access to the site of the incident to international investigators in order to facilitate the recovery of remains and to carry out a thorough investigation.”

Obama earlier spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, warning that evidence from the airliner must not be moved from the country until a “thorough and transparent” investigation has taken place.

US officials told AFP the jet was shot down over Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile though it was unclear who fired the weapon and from where.

Malaysia is reeling from the second disaster to strike the national airline within four months.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on March 8, and is believed to have crashed into a remote part of the Indian Ocean, though no trace of the plane has yet been found.