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Strauss-Kahn, NY hotel maid settle sex assault suit; accusation began spate of trouble for him

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - When a settlement ended the last legal fallout from the sexual assault allegation that sank his political career, Dominique Strauss-Kahn kept his distance.

The former International Monetary Fund leader, once seen as a promising French presidential candidate, stayed in Paris and stayed mum as a New York judge announced the settlement Monday.

But his accuser, hotel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo, spoke out publicly in one of few times she has done so. Standing outside the courthouse, she thanked God and "everyone who supported me all over the world."

The lawsuit settlement — its details sealed — came after prosecutors dropped related criminal charges last year, saying Diallo had credibility problems. For her, the deal means she "can move on with her life," said one of her lawyers, Kenneth Thompson.

For Strauss-Kahn, it closes another of a number of sexual allegations that have confronted him since Diallo told police in May 2011 that he'd attacked her. He is still fighting charges of aggravated pimping in France.

In a statement, Strauss-Kahn attorneys William Taylor III and Amit Mehta said the former diplomat was "pleased to have arrived at a resolution" of the New York suit.

Longtime Strauss-Kahn friend and political ally Michele Sabban, vice-president of the regional government around Paris, said Tuesday he was "relieved" over the agreement.

"Ever since May 15, 2011, this has been something that has weighed very heavily," said Sabban, who had a long-planned dinner Monday with Strauss-Kahn. "Now, he is turning to the future ... the page has turned."

Strauss-Kahn hadn't spoken with her about the size of the settlement and "he isn't supposed to," she said by phone, citing the confidentiality of the negotiations.

Diallo, a 33-year-old housekeeper from Guinea, told police Strauss-Kahn forced her to perform oral sex, tried to rape her and tore a ligament in her shoulder after she arrived to clean his luxury hotel suite. The 63-year-old Strauss-Kahn, who has since separated from his wife, has said what happened was "a moral failing" but was consensual.

The allegations spurred his arrest, forced him to resign his IMF post and cut off his potential candidacy for the French presidency.

The criminal case was dropped after prosecutors said they couldn't trust Diallo. Among their concerns: She was inconsistent about her actions right after leaving Strauss-Kahn's suite, and she lied about having been raped before.

She said she always told the truth about Strauss-Kahn and would press her claims in the lawsuit. Strauss-Kahn called the suit defamatory and countersued for $1 million.

Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon said he met Diallo earlier this year and talked with her about the prospect of settlement talks. A final deal was inked just Monday, McKeon said. In an interview with French radio station RTL, he suggested that both sides wanted the terms of the deal to remain confidential.

The judge said Diallo also settled a separate libel lawsuit against the New York Post over a series of articles that claimed she was a prostitute; the details of that settlement also weren't disclosed. A spokeswoman for the News Corp.-owned newspaper didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

After Diallo came forward, other allegations emerged about Strauss-Kahn's behaviour toward women. He had been known as a womanizer but largely viewed as debonair.

French judges are to decide by Dec. 19 whether to throw out the aggravated pimping charges, linked to a suspected prostitution ring run out of a luxury hotel in Lille. He acknowledges attending "libertine" gatherings but says he didn't know about any women getting paid to participate.

Another inquiry, centred on allegations of rape in a hotel in Washington, D.C., was dropped after French prosecutors said the accuser, an escort, changed her account to say she wasn't forced to have sex.

French prosecutors also have looked into writer Tristane Banon's allegations that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a 2003 interview, a claim she made public after his New York arrest and he called imaginary and slanderous. Prosecutors said they believed the encounter qualified as a sexual assault, but the legal clock for pursuing her complaint had run out.

The Associated Press does not name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Diallo and Banon have done.

Several hours before the New York court date, Strauss-Kahn was seen in Paris leaving his new residence in the Left Bank neighbourhood of Montparnasse. Asked by the AP whether he was relieved the New York end of his legal problems would soon be over, he declined to respond.

A mix of disgust and apathy pervaded on Paris streets about the case.

"It's disgusting. He's disgusting. The money is disgusting," Parisian Carmen Letourner told the AP near Strauss-Kahn's residence. "He's a sex maniac."

Another Parisian, Jean-Marc Dicicco, expressed relief that the case would now be drifting out of the headlines: "I think that there are much more important events in life than this affair."

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Tom Hays in New York and Jamey Keaten in Paris, and videographer Jeff Schaeffer in Paris.

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Associated Press Writers Tom Hays in New York and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

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