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Italian Minister of Labor and Industry Luigi Di Maio speaks at the Italian Business Association Confcommercio meeting in Rome, Italy, June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

(reuters_tickers)

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Thursday he still expects French President Emmanuel Macron to apologise for critical comments he made about Italian immigration policy two days ago.

Macron said Rome had acted with "cynicism and irresponsibility" by closing its ports to a migrant ship earlier this week, setting off a bitter diplomatic spat between the two countries, with Italy's new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte considering putting off a meeting with Macron due on Friday.

"We're waiting for an apology. If we get one, we can start down a new path," Di Maio said in a radio interview. "There's still time to take a step back, apologise, and then start over."

Macron called Conte on Thursday, a source in the prime minister's office said, without elaborating.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Massimiliano Di Giorgio, editing by Francesca Landini)

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Reuters