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UNITED NATIONS: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who has developed close ties with US President Joe Biden's administration, voiced solidarity Tuesday with France over Australia's cancellation of a massive submarine contract.

"I can understand our French friends' anger," Maas told reporters at the United Nations, where leaders are meeting for the General Assembly.

"What was decided, and the manner in which it was decided, was irritating and disappointing, and not only for France," he said.

"What we're seeing makes things much more complicated and I think it's going to stay that way for a while."

Maas, like many Europeans, has not hidden his joy at Biden's defeat of Donald Trump, a sworn unilateralist who openly criticized outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel on issues including immigration.

But "I was never under any illusion that we wouldn't have problems with the new American president," Maas said.

North Korea says US submarine deal, alliance could trigger 'nuclear arms race'

"We need to reflect in Europe on ways to bolster European sovereignty. It's ultimately up to us to do it or not."

France was infuriated last week when Australia cancelled a multi-billion-dollar contract for conventional submarines, saying it wanted to upgrade to US-made nuclear versions as it entered a new alliance with the United States and Britain.

France accused Canberra of back-stabbing and Washington of behavior unbecoming of an ally, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian not scheduling a one-on-one meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken while in New York.

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