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Australian minister quits after finding out he may also be Italian

By James Regan

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Powerful Australian minister Matthew Canavan on Tuesday became the third politician forced to step aside over a question of dual citizenship, saying he was unaware his mother had taken out Italian citizenship for him when he was 25.

Australian politicians are not eligible to be elected to parliament if they hold dual or plural citizenship.

"I had no knowledge that I, myself, had become an Italian citizen - nor had I requested to become an Italian citizen," said the Australian-born Canavan, who quit the major position of minister for Resources and Northern Australia.

Australia is highly dependent economically on exports of its natural resources.

"In 2006, my mother lodged documents with the Italian consulate in Brisbane to become an Italian citizen," Canavan said. "In doing so, it would appear that she made an application for me to become an Italian citizen as well."

Canavan said he was 25 years old at the time.

Two members of Australia's Greens party were forced to resign this month after it was revealed one held dual Canadian citizenship and the other New Zealand citizenship.

Canavan said he would not resign from Parliament because he had not yet secured definitive legal advice whether the grant of Italian citizenship, without his signature, knowledge or consent, was valid under Italian law.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)