France recalls Italy ambassador amid diplomatic row over 'yellow vests' meeting

The march arrives at Bastille Square in Paris

The march arrives at Bastille Square in Paris

The nation has recalled its ambassador from Rome after Italian leaders heaped criticism on President Macron, urging French voters to back the far right instead.

France is recalling its ambassador to Italy amid mounting tensions, after Di Maio met with French yellow vest protesters and offered to support their anti-government movement. Italy's hostile interference in French affairs "has no precedent since the war", said the French foreign ministry.

It came one day after the French foreign ministry denounced as "unacceptable" a meeting between Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio and France's "yellow vest" anti-government protesters.

Di Maio announced Tuesday that he had met near Paris with yellow vest leader Christophe Chalencon and candidates on a "yellow vest" list for European Parliament elections in May, led by Ingrid Levavasseur.

The remarkable war of words between two founding members of the European Union began shortly after the Five Star Movement and Salvini's right-wing League parties won Italian elections and formed a coalition government last June.

The "yellow vest" protests against fuel taxes began in rural and small-town France in November, but have ballooned into a wider revolt against Macron's policies and governing style.

Macron has at times responded, criticising Italy last June for its refusal to accept a boatload of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, and taking aim at Rome's public finances.

Last month Di Maio said France's "colonial" policies in Africa had "impoverished" the continent's people and driven them to flee for Europe. And the Italian government last fall accused France of dumping underage migrants over the border without authorization.

"The winds of change have crossed the Alps", Di Maio said on Twitter.

Italy's two deputy prime ministers, Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League and Luigi Di Maio of the populist, anti-establishment Five-Star movement, have in recent months goaded Macron on a number of issues.

In an interview Wednesday, Le Pen said Macron's attempts at national reconciliation will fail if the president fails to address the demands of yellow vests. Italy and France each has oil and economic interests in Libya, and both have disagreed over how to bring out about stability and fair elections to the conflict-ridden country.

The French president is hoping to forge an alliance of pro-European centrists ahead of the bloc's parliamentary vote, against a wave of populist movements in several European countries.

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