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France's top military chief resigned Wednesday after a war of words with Emmanuel Macron over budget cuts that tested the new president's authority.

The head of the French armed forces, General Pierre de Villiers, said in a statement on Wednesday that he had tendered his resignation to the president and that it had been accepted.

By cutting De Villiers down to size, Macron swung a punch too at a wing of the ultra-conservative Catholic aristocracy - a grouping that backed Francois Fillon, one of his main rivals for the presidency.

"In the current circumstances, I believe that I am no longer in the position of ensuring the stability of the army in which I guaranteed the protection of France and the French, today and tomorrow, and to support our country's ambitions".

De Villiers, head of the military since 2014, insisted that it was his "duty" to express his concerns about military resources amid the sustained threat of extremist attacks.

De Villiers, appearing before a closed-door hearing of parliamentarians - had used strong language to protest at the 850 million euro ($A1.24 billion) defence budget cut Macron was making as part of his efforts to rein in state spending.

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Macron's own behavior has elicited criticism, notably by those who fear he is growing power-hungry since overwhelmingly winning election in May and seeing his new centrist party dominate last month's parliamentary elections.

Damien Abad, a member of the opposition Republicans who sits on the parliamentary defense committee, tweeted that Macron's "excessive authoritarianism led to the resignation".

He said: "I may be stupid, but I know when I'm being had".

De Villiers issued an appeal on Facebook saying "Watch out for blind trust".

In his first foreign visit after taking office, he visited French troops engaged in counter-terrorism operations in the West African country of Mali.

The crisis was exacerbated by its timing, coming in the week of the July 14 Bastille Day military parade, where US President Donald Trump was the guest of honour.

It also appeared at odds with Mr. Macron's commitment to increase military spending to 2 percent of G.D.P. - the amount that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries are required to spend on defense - by 2025.

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