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Convoy of hearses brings 74 dead home

By Matt Hewer

Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster have arrived in the Netherlands, as Australian and Dutch diplomats pressed for a UN team to secure the crash site in territory held by pro-Russian rebels.

All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – most of them Dutch citizens – were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17. US officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile from territory held by pro-Russian rebels, most likely by accident.

Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop was travelling with her Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans to Kiev to seek an agreement with the Ukraine gov- ernment to allow international police to secure the wreckage.

However, details of any deal – including which countries would contribute and whether officers would be armed and protected by international troops – have yet to be agreed.

On Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Australia demanding that rebels co-operate with an independent investigation and allow all remaining bodies to be recovered.

The first bodies arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday and were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and hundreds of relatives.

The two planes which touched down yesterday brought a total of 74 more coffins back to the Netherlands, said government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking.

The Dutch investigators gave permission for what it called "local parties" to move wreckage at the site in order to recover remaining victims.

Conditions at the site, spread across farm fields in open countryside, have made recovery and investigation a slow and sometimes chaotic process, with rebel gunmen in the area at times hindering access.

Patricia Zorko, head of the National Police Unit that includes the Dutch national forensic team, said some 200 experts, including 80 from overseas, were working at a military barracks on the outskirts of the central city of Hilversum to identify the dead.

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