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Bodies of Malaysian MH17 victims may take 'months' to return: Najib

Unlikely for the remains to be returned before Hari Raya as more time is needed for forensic work to identify the bodies, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday it may take "weeks or months" before the remains of flight MH17 crash victims are returned to Malaysia – dashing the hopes of families who had hoped they would return by Hari Raya.

The families as well as the Prime Minister himself had wanted the remains of their loved ones onboard the ill-fated flight to reach home before the Muslim festival of Hari Raya, or Eid, on July 28.  After signing a condolence book at the residence of the Dutch ambassador to Malaysia, Mr Najib said more time was needed for forensic work to identify the bodies.

"We cannot avoid a very painstaking process," said Mr Najib. "This is both a technical requirement and a legal requirement. Therefore it is highly unlikely that the bodies can be brought back in time for Hari Raya."

Two aircraft carrying remains of some of the passengers arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday, where experts will work to identify them with DNA samples collected from relatives. The remains will then be brought over to a military base in the Dutch town of Hilversum.

At the Dutch Ambassador's residence, Mr Najib had also expressed disappointment that international investigators were still unable to fully access the crash site in east Ukraine. "Yes I'm angry; I want full access. Unfortunately it's a war zone... it's not as straightforward as it sounds,” he said. "I will be talking to the president of Ukraine and, if necessary, I will reach out to [rebel leader] Mr Borodai but I'm also aware of the sensitivities."

Some have criticised Mr Najib for reaching out to the rebels to reach a deal that gave international investigators access to black boxes and the crash site. There were concerns the deal may have "legitimised" the pro-Russia separatists, further complicating an already tense geopolitical conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

But others lauded Mr Najib for remaining neutral and achieving what the families wanted – access to their loved ones' remains.

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