IMF chief faces pressure to resign while others view him as victim

As one of the most powerful men in global economics, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was supposed to give the keynote speech at the Brussels Economic Forum in Belgium on Wednesday.

Instead, the head of the International Monetary Fund sits in a New York jail cell with his career and political future in limbo.

"I do not see how he can perform his duties as director of the IMF. So by definition, this issue should be resolved in the coming days," Jean-Francois Cope, secretary-general of France´s ruling UMP party, told reporters Wednesday.

The comments came a day after U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Strauss-Kahn was "obviously not in a position to run the IMF."

In addition to his IMF leadership, Strauss-Kahn was widely viewed as a front-runner to unseat French president Nicolas Sarkozy before authorities said he chased the maid naked down the hallway of his suite and sexually assaulted her.

But some French citizens say they think Strauss-Kahn is actually the victim of a conspiracy.

According to a poll released Wednesday by the Conseil Sondage Analyses (Council of Polling Analysis), 57% of French people think Strauss-Kahn was victimized.

Still, 54% said they think Strauss-Kahn´s Socialist Party could win in the 2012 presidential race without him.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, was denied bail by a Manhattan Criminal Court judge and remanded Monday to an 11-by-13-foot cell at New York´s Rikers Island jail complex. There, the man whom many refer to as DSK was placed on suicide watch -- a common procedure in high-profile cases, two sources with direct knowledge of the case told CNN.

Until his next court appearance Friday, Strauss-Kahn will be largely left alone -- denied contact with other inmates because of his high-profile status, said a New York Department of Correction spokesman who declined to be named.

The case has shaken the IMF, an organization of 187 countries working to improve world economies by providing loans and guidance.

Austria´s finance minister said Tuesday that Strauss-Kahn should consider stepping down for the good of the institution.

"Given the circumstances that his bail was not granted, he should think about whether he is damaging the institution," Maria Fekter told reporters in Brussels, Belgium, during a meeting of European finance ministers.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters he hopes the incident does not affect the "many important decisions ... before the IMF."

"At the moment it is important that it functions well," Hague said. "So we look to all concerned to make sure that it does."

On Tuesday, IMF spokesman William Murray said in a written statement that the IMF had had no contact with its leader since his arrest.

In Strauss-Kahn´s absence, First Deputy Managing director John Lipsky has been named acting managing director, "and the fund continues its normal work," Murray said.

Murray also said Strauss-Kahn´s diplomatic immunity does not apply in the sexual assault case.

"The MD´s (managing director´s) immunities are limited and are not applicable to this case," he said.

He added, however, that any IMF-related documents Strauss-Kahn may have had with him or left in the hotel room would be governed by diplomatic immunity and should be returned to the Washington-based organization.

A former French finance minister, national legislator and economics professor in Paris, Strauss-Kahn became the IMF´s 10th managing director in November 2007. He is also chairman of the IMF executive board.

The alleged victim is a 32-year-old single mother living in the New York borough of the Bronx who moved to the United States from the West African country of Guinea. She had been working at the hotel for at least two years, according to her attorney, Jeffrey Shapiro.

"Her world has been turned upside down," he said. "She is very scared about her future."

Shapiro said his client is cooperating with police and prosecutors, and would be willing to testify against Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn´s accuser picked the IMF chief out of a lineup Sunday at a New York police station, saying he was the man who had sexually assaulted her, according to a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation.

"She´s recovering -- slowly," said Blake Diallo, the general manager of a Harlem restaurant she frequents, who described himself to reporters as her friend.

The alleged attack began Saturday around noon, when the housekeeper entered Strauss-Kahn´s suite on the 28th floor of the New York´s Sofitel hotel to clean.

New York Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said the economist emerged naked from a room, ran down a hallway after the woman, and attacked her.

He shut the door, preventing the woman from leaving, according to a criminal complaint released by prosecutors.

"He grabbed the victim´s chest without consent, attempted to remove her pantyhose" and forcibly grabbed her between her legs, the complaint said. He also forced her to perform oral sex on him, Assistant District attorney John McConnell said at Monday´s arraignment.

The criminal complaint alleges that Strauss-Kahn forced the woman to engage "in oral sexual conduct and anal sexual conduct" and tried to force her to engage in sexual intercourse.

Afterward, the employee went to the front desk, and staffers alerted police, Browne said.

By the time officers arrived, Strauss-Kahn had left in the hotel limousine, according to the law enforcement source.

He called the hotel around the same time police got to the hotel to say he had left his phone behind and asked if it could be delivered to him at the airport. Investigators told the hotel staff member to agree to do so, and police went to the airport.

Two plain-clothed Port Authority police detectives led him off a plane bound for France, the source said.

Charges against Strauss-Kahn include two counts of first-degree criminal sexual act, one count of first-degree attempted rape, one count of first-degree sexual abuse, one count of second-degree unlawful imprisonment, one count of forcible touching and one count of third-degree sexual abuse.

The most serious charge, criminal sexual act in the first degree, carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Defense attorney Benjamin Brafman called the case "very defensible."

But some observers said Tuesday that his political future appears bleak.

"If the accusations are true, Strauss-Kahn will not be able to run for president," said Jacques Attali, a political analyst and a former top aide to late Socialist president Francois Mitterrand.

In Washington, U.S. Sen. John Kerry told reporters the situation involving the IMF chief was "very troubling, if not damning."

"You´ve got to give it a few days to let that develop," he said. "But if the evidence is what it appears to be, I think it would be very difficult for him to manage."

(Published by CNN - May 18, 2011)


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5/17/11 - N.Y. judge remands IMF chief in custody - click here.

5/16/11 - IMF chief submits to DNA exam ahead of New York court date on sex assault charges as police claim he tried to flee the country - click here.


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