KUALA LUMPUR: The hunt for Flight MH370 may resume if new evidence comes to light, Malaysia's prime minister said Wednesday, as a private search for the plane draws to a close.
The Malaysia Airlines jet vanished in March 2014 with 239 people -- mostly from China -- on board, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. US exploration firm Ocean Infinity was contracted for a three-month search for the Boeing 777 on a "no find, no fee basis". This is set to end in the coming days after finding no sign of the wreckage.
The private search came after an Australian-led hunt, which covered a vast area of the southern Indian Ocean and was the most expensive in aviation history. It was suspended last year.
Mahathir Mohamad, who became Malaysia's premier for a second time after a shock election victory, indicated the government had no plans at the moment to resume the hunt.
"We have come to a stage where we cannot keep searching for something we cannot find," he told a press conference.
"We understand the feelings of the relatives but we cannot allow the search to go on forever." But he added: "If we find any new information, we may resume the search."
Transport Minister Anthony Loke said he hoped a final report into the plane's disappearance by an independent international investigation team would be published by July.
Ocean Infinity had stood to make up to $70 million if it found the jet or its black boxes. The private US firm scoured over 112,000 square kilometres (43,000 square miles) of seabed.
The ship conducting the hunt, Seabed Constructor, was a Norwegian research vessel carrying 65 crew, including two members of the Malaysian navy as the government's representatives.
It used eight autonomous drones equipped with sonars and cameras, able to operate at depths up to 6,000 metres (20,000 feet).
Only three confirmed fragments of MH370 have been found, all of them on western Indian Ocean shores, including a two-metre wing part known as a flaperon.