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Lawmakers signal Palestinian action could threaten funding

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers said on Wednesday they were unhappy about the Palestinian leadership's decision to sign more than a dozen international conventions, and warned it could trigger a cutoff of U.S. aid.

"It was extremely disappointing to me that (President Mahmoud Abbas) chose to take this action at the U.N. It is counterproductive and doesn't move them closer to any final resolution," New York Representative Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, said at a House hearing.

Abbas had pledged not to seek to join world bodies during U.S. brokered peace negotiations that are scheduled to run until the end of April. But he made a surprise announcement on Tuesday that he had signed the conventions, citing anger at Israel's delay of a prisoner release.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry immediately announced that he was cancelling a trip to the region.

On Wednesday at the House subcommittee hearing on the U.N. budget, lawmakers questioned Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, about Abbas' action.

They discussed whether it would trigger a U.S. law that Palestinian membership in international agencies could prompt a withdrawal of financial aid to the Palestinian authority and closure of their mission in Washington.

Power said it was too soon to determine what response would be appropriate. "We will need to see what it is they have submitted," she said.

Representative Kay Granger, who chairs the subcommittee, said the Obama administration must make its opposition clear.

"The administration must send a clear message to the Palestinians that the only path to statehood is through a negotiated agreement with Israel, not through unilateral attempts at the U.N.," Granger said at the hearing.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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