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US wants Strauss Kahn to exit IMF

NEW YORK, May 18 – IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, locked up in a New York jail for alleged sexual assault, faced growing pressure as US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he should no longer lead the powerful financial institution.

"He\’s obviously not in the position to run the IMF," Geithner said in response to a question at a New York conference.

It was the first public comments by the Treasury secretary about Strauss-Kahn, who has denied all charges as he prepares to spend his second night in New York\’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex. He faces a long prison sentence if convicted.

IMF spokesman William Murray said the Washington-based organization has not been in touch with Strauss-Kahn since his arrest in the first-class section of an Air France jet Saturday afternoon.

"We have not had contact with the managing director since his arrest in New York," Murray said in a statement.

"Obviously, it will be important to be in contact with him in due course. We are aware of widespread speculation about the managing director’s status."

Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexually assaulting a maid who entered his room at the posh Sofitel Hotel believing it was empty.

The 62-year-old allegedly emerged from the shower naked and tried to force himself on the woman, who was eventually able to fend off the attacks and run out of the room.

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The 32-year-old woman has not been identified, and has not spoken publicly about the alleged incident. But her lawyer Jeff Shapiro told CNN that his client was suffering from "extraordinary" trauma.

On Monday, a judge refused to grant bail to the head of the International Monetary Fund, saying he posed a flight risk because he might try to escape to France. A grand jury is due to convene to decide whether there is enough evidence in the accusations to proceed to trial.

Grand jury proceedings are secret and a spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney\’s office would not comment on progress. A new court hearing is due Friday.

Meanwhile, a man who says he is the maid\’s brother said she was in floods of tears after the alleged assault.

 "Something bad just happened. She was crying. She did not stop crying," said the man, whom AFP did not name to protect the identity of the maid.

Noting that his sister was a Muslim, the man said "she was completely devastated. She was with the doctor and the police when she called me on Saturday afternoon."

He also said that the maid had not known who was her alleged attacker. "She didn\’t know who Dominique Strauss-Kahn was at the time of the incident. I was the one who explained it to her," the man said.

In New York\’s Bronx borough, neighbors of the alleged victim spoke of a quiet woman who lives with her daughter and makes the commute from her working class neighborhood to swanky Times Square.

"I know (her) since she moved here about six months (ago). She is nice, a nice girl, hard working woman and I saw her pretty much every day when she goes away to do this job and it is a nice family, her and her daughter, they live together," the building supervisor told AFP.

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 Whatever happens this week, the bottom has fallen out of Strauss-Kahn\’s world.

Until the alleged assault took place in his luxury Sofitel suite last weekend, the silver-haired Frenchman was a global VIP, enjoying a glamorous lifestyle and dealing with the world\’s most powerful leaders.

He was also widely seen as the man who could unseat President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 elections.

Now he remains in a single cell on New York City\’s Rikers Island, along with thousands of others caught up in the criminal justice system, most of them too poor to afford their bail and a few, like Strauss-Kahn, who are considered a flight risk.

In France, Strauss-Kahn continues to enjoy some backing from supporters circulating conspiracy theories that he may have been set up. Many others have chosen to remain silent on the hugely embarrassing affair.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon, however, was quoted saying there could be "no excuse" if the allegations were true. It would be "a very serious act," he said.

Fillon was the most senior French politician to be quoted explicitly outlining a position on the alleged crime.

Strauss-Kahn\’s lawyers have promised a "vigorous" defense.

During the bail hearing, the chief line of defense centered on assertions that Strauss-Kahn did not try to flee the country as alleged, and that he went out to lunch immediately after the time of the alleged crime.

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This timeline, lawyers say, indicates that he had nothing to hide and was not in a panic, as police and prosecutors have suggested.

Another possible defense, the New York Post tabloid reported, was that he may have had a consensual sexual encounter with the alleged victim. The Post quoted a "source close to the defense" saying "there may well have been consent."

In court, lawyer Ben Brafman said the evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter," but he did not elaborate and did not suggest consent. Prosecutors, however, say they have physical evidence, including a doctor\’s exam made immediately after the incident indicating attempted rape.

William Taylor, another defense attorney, meanwhile would not confirm the Post story. "I don\’t have any comment. I don\’t even know who that is," he said, referring to the "source."


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