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News Briefs

Jordan Cracks Down on Hamas

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- AMMAN, JORDAN

Security forces raided offices belonging to the militant Islamic movement Hamas on Monday and arrested up to a dozen members of the organization in a sweeping crackdown, Jordanian officials said.

Foreign Minister Abdulilah Khatib said the offices, which were registered as businesses, were searched and then shut down after authorities determined they were serving as “fronts for illegal political activity.”

Khatib said warrants also were issued Monday for four top political leaders of the movement, including Khaled Mashaal, the target of a bungled 1997 assassination attempt by Israel, and Mousa Abu Marzuk, who was deported from the United States the same year and given refuge here by the late King Hussein. The others sought by authorities were Ibrahim Ghosheh, a Hamas spokesman, and another representative, Mohammed Nazzal.

All four were said to be outside Jordan on Monday, paying a visit to Iran.

The crackdown on Hamas, a Palestinian group that is violently opposed to the Middle East peace process, comes just as U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright prepares to head for the Middle East for talks aimed at pushing the peace negotiations forward.

Chairman Defends Bank of N.Y.

THE WASHINGTON POST -- NEW YORK

The Bank of New York’s top executive Monday defended his company against allegations that it failed to curb a massive money-laundering operation, saying that he and other employees do not tolerate questionable activity.

“Our reputation, built on our collective hard work and sound business practices, is our most valuable asset,” Thomas A. Renyi, the bank’s chairman and chief executive, said in a note to employees. “We will do whatever is needed to prevent illegal or improper activities that involve the Bank. Period.”

It is the first effort by Renyi to boost the morale of 17,000 company workers around the world after disclosures that investigators in the United States and abroad are probing whether several accounts at the bank were used by organized crime and others in Russia to launder huge sums of money.

Investigators believe that a company called Benex Worldwide Ltd. may have moved $10 billion or more through the accounts. A week ago, officials seized $20 million from two accounts and subpoenaed thousands of pages of documents from the bank.

The bank has acknowledged the investigation, saying the firm was cooperating with authorities and noting that no one has accused the bank of any wrongdoing. It suspended two executives after news of the investigation surfaced.