- Associated Press - Sunday, September 18, 2011

PARIS (AP) — Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, acknowledged Sunday his sexual encounter with a New York hotel maid was a “moral failing” on his part, but it didn’t involve violence, constraint or aggression.

In his first interview since his May 14 arrest over sexual-assault accusations, Mr. Strauss-Kahn told France’s TF1 television channel what happened between him and the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, “was not only an inappropriate relationship, but more than that, it was an error.”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist politician who was widely considered a top contender in next year’s presidential race until the case broke, said that “it was a failing, a failing vis-a-vis my wife, my children and my friends, but also a failing vis-a-vis the French people, who had vested their hopes for change in me.

“I think it was a moral failing, and I am not proud of it. I regret it infinitely. I have regretted it every day for the past four months, and I think I’m not done regretting it,” he said at the start of the 20-minute interview. Much of the exchange came off as staged, with Mr. Strauss-Kahn appearing calm and unruffled throughout and not surprised by the questions.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s initial contrition was peppered with anger at his accuser, a Guinean immigrant who maintained he attacked her after she came into his room at New York’s Sofitel hotel to clean.

He said the New York prosecutor concluded that “Nafissatou Diallo lied about everything, not only about her past — that’s of no importance — but also about what happened. The (prosecutor’s) report says, it’s written there, that ‘she presented so many different versions of what happened that I can’t believe a word.’”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn suggested that financial motives might have been behind Ms. Diallo’s accusations.

He also dismissed as “imaginary” separate claims by a French writer that he tried to rape her during a 2003 interview, again insisting that “no act of aggression, no violence” had taken place between the two.

The writer, Tristane Banon, has maintained she and Mr. Strauss-Kahn tussled on the floor during an interview in an empty apartment, with the politician trying to open her jeans and bra and putting his fingers in her mouth and underwear.

Because a police investigation into the claims is ongoing, Mr. Strauss-Kahn said he would not say anything more about the matter. If Paris prosecutors decide to pursue the case, Mr. Strauss-Kahn could face a possible trial.

New York prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against him in the Diallo case last month, though Mr. Strauss-Kahn still is facing a lawsuit brought by the maid.

Asked whether he had any intention of returning to politics, Mr. Strauss-Kahn said he would “take time to reflect” and rest first.

“But all my life was consecrated to being useful to the public good,” he said, adding, “We will see.”

The AP does not name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified or come forward publicly, as Ms. Diallo and Ms. Banon have done.

Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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