PARIS Search teams looking for missing black box recorders from an Air France jet which crashed in the Atlantic last year called off operations on Tuesday after failing to locate the devices, officials said.
The suspension of the search underlined the huge difficulty of finding the black boxes on the vast and craggy ocean floor, but authorities denied a newspaper report of conflict between the French navy and the BEA air accident investigation body.
"The third phase will end this evening, and for the time being we have not found them," said a French navy spokesman.
Air France flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris plunged into the ocean during a storm on June 1 last year, killing 228 people, and since then a search has been under way for clues to the cause of the accident.
The BEA itself said it would not issue a progress report for the time being. It also declined to comment on the article in the daily Le Figaro that it had clashed with the navy over aspects of the search.
The French navy spokesman denied that there was any conflict with the BEA over the handling of the search for the recorders.
"There is no conflict with the BEA," he said. "We are still making discoveries and as we go along, we inform the BEA to see if they're interested in it."
"We are not responsible for leading the search," he added.
Earlier this month, authorities said they had found what could be the first solid clues to the location of the black boxes but warned there was no guarantee they would be found.
Speculation about the cause of the crash has focused on possible icing of the aircraft's speed sensors, which appeared to give inconsistent readings seconds before the plane vanished.
Black box flight recorders are designed to emit homing signals for around 30 days, and two sophisticated salvage vessels have been scouring a 3,000-square-km area to try to locate the Airbus A330 recorders.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Editing by Michael Taylor)