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French Ambassador to Italy to return to Rome on Friday -Minister

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PARIS (Reuters) - France's ambassador to Italy, recalled by his country this month in response to a series of critical comments directed at France by Italian politicians, will return to Rome on Friday, said the French European Affairs Minister.

France recalled its ambassador on Feb 7 in what was the first withdrawal of a French envoy to Rome since World War Two.

"He returns to Rome today," minister Nathalie Loiseau told RTL radio on Friday.

Ties between the two traditionally close allies have grown increasingly tense since mid-2018, with Italy's Deputy Prime Ministers Luigi di Maio and Matteo Salvini firing verbal pot-shots at French President Emmanuel Macron and his government, mostly over migration policy.

The recall came shortly after di Maio met members of France's "yellow vest" movement, which has mounted a sometimes violent months-long campaign against Macron's reform programme.

Since then the two countries have sought to play down tensions between them.

Italy's President spoke with Macron by telephone "and they expressed the extent to which (their) ... friendship ... was important and how the two countries needed one another," Loiseau told RTL.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Sophie Louet; editing by John Stonestreet)

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