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Strauss-Kahn, French accuser meet face to face

- Associated Press - Thursday, September 29, 2011

PARIS (AP) — Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn met in a face-to-face confrontation Thursday with a Frenchwoman who says he tried to rape her, as the two were questioned jointly by investigators deciding whether to pursue the case.

The Paris prosecutor's office is investigating Tristane Banon's claims that Mr. Strauss-Kahn attacked her during an interview for a book in 2003. Mr. Strauss-Kahn calls the claims imaginary and slanderous.

Ms. Banon requested a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Strauss-Kahn, which investigators granted. The two arrived at the police facility Thursday morning in cars and did not speak to reporters gathered outside.

This kind of confrontation is a practice sometimes used in France to help officials decide if a case is worth pursuing.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn quit as IMF managing director and saw his chances for the French presidency evaporate after a New York hotel maid accused him of attempted rape in May.

The U.S. case later was dropped amid questions about the maid's credibility, but the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, has filed a civil suit. Mr. Strauss-Kahn claimed Monday he has diplomatic immunity and asked a New York court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Ms. Banon also has threatened to sue Mr. Strauss-Kahn if Paris prosecutors decide not to go forward with a criminal case against him.

One challenge for Ms. Banon's case is that the incident in question happened eight years ago.

Ms. Banon has said that Mr. Strauss-Kahn invited her to an empty apartment for the book interview, and they ended up tussling on the floor, with the politician trying to open her jeans and bra and putting his fingers in her mouth and underwear.

Ms. Banon has defended her decision not to press charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn at the time of the alleged incident. In 2003, she was 23 years old, and Mr. Strauss-Kahn was an eminence grise of France's Socialist party.

The Associated Press generally does not name accusers in sexual assault cases unless they agree to be named or identify themselves publicly, as Ms. Banon and Ms. Diallo have done.

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