French ambassador to return to US: Macron

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French President Emmanuel Macron will send his ambassador back to the United States next week after President Joe Biden agreed that consulting France before announcing a security pact with Australia could have prevented a diplomatic row, the two sides say.

Last week, France recalled its ambassadors from the United States and Australia and accused Biden of stabbing it in the back after Australia ditched a multi-billion dollar defence contract for the purchase of French submarines and opted for US submarines instead.

In a phone call on Wednesday, Macron and Biden agreed to launch in-depth consultations to rebuild trust, Macron's office and the White House said in a joint statement.

Macron and Biden will meet in Europe at the end of October.

"The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners," the statement said.

"President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard."

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki described the call as "friendly" and sounded hopeful about improving ties.

"The president has had a friendly phone call with the president of France where they agreed to meet in October and continue close consultations and work together on a range of issues," she said.

Asked if Biden apologised to Macron, Ms Psaki said: "He acknowledged that there could have been greater consultation".

The US, Australian and British security partnership was widely seen as designed to counter China's growing assertiveness in the Pacific but critics said it undercut Biden's broader effort to rally allies such as France to that cause.

The US also committed to boosting support for counter-terrorism missions led by European countries in Africa's Sahel region, Macron's office said.

France has a 5000 strong counter-terrorism force fighting Islamist militants across the Sahel.

It is reducing its contingent to 2500-3000, moving more assets to Niger, and encouraging other European countries to provide special forces to work alongside local forces. The United States provides logistical and intelligence support.

The United States "recognises the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence, that contributes positively to trans-Atlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO," the statement said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US military would continue to support French operations, but declined to speculate about potential increases or changes in US assistance.

No decision has been made about the French ambassador to Australia, the Elysee said, adding that no phone call with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was scheduled.

with AP

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