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Australia Will Reconsider Its Support for Iran Nuclear Deal

Australia's incoming Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a press conference in Canberra on August 24, 2018.

Australia will consider reviewing its support for the Iran nuclear deal and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and shifting its embassy there from Tel Aviv, Australia's Prime Minister said on Tuesday.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector that it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war, as its capital.

Last December, U.S. President Donald Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem, enraging the Palestinians and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies.

Australia was firm in its refusal to follow suit at the time, however Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in parliament he was now "open-minded" about doing so, while not changing Australia's policy of support for a Palestinian state.

"No decision has been made in regarding the recognition of a capital or the movement of an embassy ... but at the same time, what we are simply doing is being open to that suggestion."

Morrison also said Australia would review its support for the Iran nuclear deal, under which sanctions were lifted in return for restraints on its nuclear program "to determine whether our current policy settings remain fit for purpose".

Trump decided in May to abandon the pact and to restore economic sanctions on Iran, including those that seek to force the OPEC member's major oil customers to stop buying Iranian crude.

Australia was not a party to the nuclear deal, which was signed by three European powers, Russia, China, the U.S. and Iran. But if Australia withdraws its support from the deal, it would give the Trump administration a much needed Western ally in the dispute.

Regarding Jerusalem, Morrison said the idea was suggested to him by a former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, who is a candidate for the ruling conservative Liberal Party in a by-election Saturday in a Sydney electorate with a large Jewish population.

At stake is the government's single-seat majority in the House of Representatives and Morrison's ability to retain power without doing deals with independent lawyers.

Reporting by Reuters and AP