Malaysian Government Repeatedly Declines Help from Interpol in Search for Missing Plane

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-03_faece22f5d.jpgiStock/Thinkstock (KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) -- The Malaysian government has repeatedly turned down assistance from Interpol to assist in its investigation of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a senior Western law enforcement official told ABC News Saturday. That offer has since been repeated several times and declined each time. "It's the old pre-9/11 approach: close-hold information, don't share anything," the official said.

Law enforcement officials are now worried that critical investigative time has been lost and leads could well have dried up as sources of information could have dispersed in the last week. The FBI also hasn't been invited by the Malaysian government to help on the ground, sources said.

"Malaysia Airlines has shared all available information with the relevant authorities since the moment we learned that the aircraft had disappeared," read a statement from the airline. "This is truly an unprecedented situation, for Malaysia Airlines and for the entire aviation industry."

Police also visited the house of Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the 53-year-old pilot of the missing plane. A married father of three grown children with more than 18,000 hours of experience in the air, he has been described as an affluent aviation buff, with a home in a gated community that police spent about two hours inside.

Earlier at a news conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the plane was steered off course by someone on board, was airborne for more than seven hours and may have traveled as far as Kazakhstan. He added that although the movements were consistent with deliberate acts, he wouldn't confirm that the plane was hijacked.

"We are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path," he said.

Razak presented a vastly different timeline that what had officials had previously acknowledged - saying for the first time that the last confirmed communication between the plane and a satellite was at 8:11 a.m. Malaysian time. The prime minister said the search has expanded to points as far north as Kazakhstan and as far south as the South Indian Ocean - a stretch of more than 5,000 miles.

"Clearly the search for MH370 has entered a new phase," he said.

No questions were allowed at the press conference. A follow-up conference scheduled for 5:30 p.m. local time was later canceled.

The flight was carrying 239 people when it disappeared while above waters between Malaysia and Vietnam. A frantic search followed, with 14 different countries involved.

The plane’s communication systems were shut down separately, two U.S. officials said, an indication that the plane did not come out of the sky because of a catastrophic failure.

The data reporting system, they believe, was shut down at 1:07 a.m. The transponder – which transmits location and altitude – shut down at 1:21 a.m. The missing flight continued to “ping” a satellite on an hourly basis after it lost contact with radar, senior administration officials told ABC News.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio