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Fill in the Atlantic's black spots - Sarkozy

FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy denounced "black holes" in air traffic controls yesterday and said officials are working out ways to avoid surveillance gaps over the Atlantic Ocean after the crash of Air France Flight 447.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet were heading to Dakar yesterday to meet with Senegalese officials and discuss how to make sure "there is no more black hole" in air traffic control.

"It's not normal" to have such gaps, Sarkozy told a news conference yesterday with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The two leaders have cooperated on the international search operation and investigation following the June 1 crash of Air France Flight 447 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. All 228 people aboard were killed when the Airbus A330 slammed into the Atlantic, 1,500 kilometers off Brazil's mainland, amid thunderstorms and out of radar coverage.

French air accident investigator Alain Bouillard said air traffic controllers in Dakar, Senegal, were never officially given control of the flight by Brazilian authorities.

Bouillard said the issue of who was in control of the flight is part of the investigation, but he did not suggest it contributed to the crash.

The Brazilian air force said it told Senegal that the Air France flight would enter its airspace at 0220 GMT on June 1. It added that, under an agreement between the two nations, controllers need only inform their Senegalese counterparts of a flight's expected arrival time and then it is up to Senegal to initiate any further contact if a flight does not arrive.

However, the Air Navigation Security Agency for Africa and Madagascar denied that, saying it was Brazil's responsibility to call controllers in Dakar to confirm the plane's arrival.

Silva played down French accusations that Brazilian forensic experts were not releasing information about the autopsies on some of the 51 bodies found. "There is nothing to hide," he said.

The search for more bodies has been called off, but a search for the plane's black box flight recorders will continue for another three days. The boxes could hold key clues to what happened.


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