French Prime Minister Francois Fillon criticized the United States' handling of a multi-billion-dollar aerial tanker competition that saw Northrop Grumman and European partner EADS drop out of the race.

I think that the attitude of the American government on the matter of the air tankers is a serious breach of the rules, which are those of fair competition between our economies, Fillon said during a visit to Berlin's Humboldt University.

The American government -- I am saying it -- has obliged EADS to quit the competition for the American army's air tankers, he added on Wednesday.

Northrop Grumman withdrew from the competition earlier this week, charging the united States Air Force's rules of favoring rival Boeing .

EADS subsequently ruled out making a solo bid for the contract.

(Reporting by Sophie Louet)