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Abbas might shut down Hamas groups

Orders review of organizations in West Bank

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday authorized a review of all private organizations in Palestinian areas, signaling that he may shut down Hamas-affiliated groups to counter the Islamic movement after it took over the Gaza Strip.

Also yesterday, the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers decided to hold talks in Jerusalem on Tuesday, the first time since Hamas seized control of Gaza, UN and Israeli officials said.

The meeting will occur as Western-backed regional leaders try to use Hamas's takeover to promote peacemaking between Israel and Abbas, the leader of Hamas's moderate rival, Fatah.

But deposed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas warned yesterday that his movement would not be ignored.

Abbas yesterday issued a presidential decree asking the interior minister to review the legal status of all nongovernmental organizations. It also gave these groups a week to reregister.

The step could be a sign that Abbas intends to clamp down on Hamas's broad network of social and welfare organizations in the West Bank. Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, leaders of the group have been driven underground in the West Bank by a Fatah campaign of kidnappings and arrests.

In a sign of the uncertainty in the West Bank, three gunmen abducted a senior Hamas official, former justice minister Ahmed Khaldi in Nablus yesterday, Palestinian security officials said. The unknown gunmen released Khaldi shortly afterward. Palestinian security said it was investigating the kidnapping.

As part of international backing for Abbas, Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, and Jordanian leaders will get together Monday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik to discuss prospects for resuming peace talks that have been effectively stalled for seven years.

Efforts to restart the peace process have been complicated by the emergence of dueling Palestinian governments ruled by the Iranian-backed Hamas in Gaza and the Western-backed Fatah in the West Bank.

Immediately after Hamas routed Fatah-led security forces in Gaza, Abbas expelled Hamas from its governing coalition with Fatah and installed a new government of moderates.

Miri Eisin, Israeli government spokeswoman, said the Quartet meeting Tuesday will be of low-level envoys from the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russia.

In Gaza City yesterday, Haniyeh said Fatah would not be able to exclude Hamas.

"There is a big force that nobody can wipe out," Haniyeh said in his weekly sermon, referring to Hamas.