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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly stands before a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Attorney General Jeff Sessions last weekend that his job was safe after Sessions endured several weeks of sharp public criticism from President Donald Trump, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.

Kelly, who was named chief of staff by Trump on Friday, phoned Sessions on Saturday to reassure him the White House wanted him to remain as head of the Justice Department, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The conversation was first reported by the Associated Press.

Kelly said Trump was still annoyed with Sessions' decision in March to recuse himself from the investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, but there had been "kind of a thaw" in Trump's attitude towards him, according to the official.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

The Kremlin says it did not interfere in the election, and Trump has denied any collusion.

Last week, Trump assailed Sessions in a tweet as "very weak" and said he was "very disappointed" with his attorney general in a Wall Street Journal interview.

When asked at a news conference last week about Sessions' future, Trump replied: "Time will tell. Time will tell."

Republican lawmakers rallied to the defence of Sessions, a former U.S. senator from Alabama, and Trump has not mentioned him in tweets in recent days.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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