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France has recalled its ambassador in Rome on Thursday after what it described as baseless and repeated attacks from Italy's political leaders, whom it urged to return to a more friendly stance.
Italy's two deputy prime ministers, Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League and Luigi Di Maio of the populist, anti-establishment 5-Star movement, have in recent months goaded French President Emmanuel Macron on a number of issues.
"France has been, for several months, the target of repeated, baseless attacks and outrageous statements," its foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Having disagreements is one thing, but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another," it added, calling Italy's attacks without precedent since World War Two.
Di Maio has labelled France a creator of poverty in Africa and met with leaders of the "yellow vest" anti-government movement, while Salvini accused it of doing nothing to bring peace to Libya.
The two deputy premiers, who swept to power last year, appear to believe that attacking Macron, a fervent Europhile, would motivate their domestic voter base before EU elections in May.
"All of these actions are creating a serious situation which is raising questions about the Italian government's intentions towards France," said the French ministry.
The Italian foreign ministry had no immediate comment about the French decision, which a diplomatic source said was unprecedented since 1945.