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Sunday, September 18, 2011

I made a "moral error", Strauss-Kahn tells France

French Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the broadcast news of French TV station TF1, in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris. The 62-year-old Socialist politician, whose hopes for the French presidency have been torpedoed, still faces a civil suit from his New York accuser as well as a probe into allegations he tried to rape writer Tristane Banon, which he denies.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn apologized to France today for a sexual encounter with a hotel maid he said was a "moral error" he would regret all his life, and vowed to stay out of the Socialist Party's 2012 election campaign.

In his first interview since a New York sex assault case ended his IMF career and wrecked his chances of running for president, Strauss-Kahn said he was angry with himself for what he called an ill-judged but consensual liaison that had let down his country and hurt his family.

"It was a moral error, and I am not proud of it," Strauss-Kahn said in an interview on TF1's primetime Sunday evening TV news programme, watched by millions. "I regret it, infinitely, and I don't think I am finished with regretting it."

The former International Monetary Fund head, once seen as the left's best chance of winning power in 2012, returned to France last week after a New York prosecutor dropped attempted rape charges related to his nine-minute encounter with a Sofitel hotel maid.

Dressed in a dark suit and sober midnight-blue tie, with a tightly buttoned shirt and neatly combed hair, his appearance on Sunday was a far cry from the disheveled, unshaven prisoner paraded before cameras in handcuffs after his mid-May arrest.

He was also a different man from the poised, erudite IMF chief and ex-finance minister who has addressed the world from hundreds of high-profile podiums over the years. Dry-mouthed, nervous and clearly uncomfortable, he joined a string of powerful men from former US president Bill Clinton to ex-congressman Anthony Weiner to publicly apologies for sexual pecadillos. He told TF1 interviewer Claire Chazal, a friend of his wife Anne Sinclair, that he was a changed man.

"I have paid heavily for it. I am still paying for it. I have seen the pain I have caused around me and I have reflected deeply," Strauss-Kahn told an ill-at-ease Chazal, who kept her arms tightly crossed throughout the interview.

The attempted rape charges were dropped late in August after doubts arose over the hotel maid's credibility. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers had said from the start that the brusque encounter in his luxury suite was sexual but consensual and non-violent. Rather than gloss over the scandal and focus on restoring his credibility as a world economic authority, Strauss-Kahn spent most of the interview expressing his regret and defending his innocence, speaking only briefly about the euro zone crisis.

Known in France by his initials DSK, he told TF1 he needed more time to reflect before deciding what to do with his career. "I wanted to be a candidate (for the election). I thought I could be useful. All that is behind me," he said. "I don't think it's my role to get involved in the (Socialist) primary." Strauss-Kahn's arrest shocked the world, set off a wave of muck-raking of his extramarital dalliances and sparked soul-searching in France over a tradition of hushing up sexual escapades by politicians and other public figures.

A few dozen feminists gathered outside the TF1 building ahead of the interview, brandishing signs reading "What's seduction for you?" and "DSK, sexual deviant, King of the chimps". Strauss-Kahn's political allies have cheered his release but the Socialist Party has moved on and is holding its primary selection contest without him. Party leaders have sounded lukewarm over him taking a role in their 2012 campaign.

An Ifop opinion poll in TOday's Journal du Dimanche newspaper found that 53 percent of those surveyed want Strauss-Kahn to retire from politics. Other polls have found that two-thirds of French want him to stay out of the left's campaign and not to have a government post in a future left-wing government.

Strauss-Kahn still faces a civil case in New York over the incident at the Times Square Sofitel, and has been questioned in France over a separate sexual assault accusation dating back to 2003 by a woman 30 years his junior .

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Tags:  Strauss-Kahn  interview  Socialist Party  





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