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Dominique Strauss-Kahn cleared, with a hitch

The sex assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn took yet another legal turn today, when a New York judge dismissed the charges — but put the order on hold pending an appeal.

State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus said he wouldn't dismiss the case until an appeal is decided on whether a special prosecutor should be appointed. That appeal was expected to be decided later today.

Wearing a dark grey suit, blue shirt and a navy- and gold-striped tie, Strauss-Kahn appeared resolute during the brief appearance in Manhattan State Supreme Court. He smiled and shook hands with an audience member as his wife, the journalist Anne Sinclair, sat nearby. They left court without speaking to reporters.

Obus said he saw no reason not to dismiss the case. But noting that the accuser was still seeking to get a special prosecutor appointed, Obus said, "I am going to stay the effectiveness of the order I am about to enter."

Shortly before the hearing Obus had denied the request to appoint a special prosecutor, saying there was nothing that would disqualify Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance from heading the case.

At the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon formally recommended the case be dismissed.

"Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt means, in good faith, that we could not ask a jury to do that," she said.

Manhattan prosecutors had filed court papers a day earlier saying they did not feel comfortable going forward with the case, because they had deep concerns about the credibility of the maid, Nafissatou Diallo.

She "has not been truthful on matters great and small" and has an ability to present "fiction as fact with complete conviction," and medical and DNA evidence is "simply inconclusive" as proof of a forced sexual encounter, they wrote.

"Our grave concerns about (her) reliability make it impossible to resolve the question of what exactly happened" between the hotel maid and the former International Monetary Fund leader, they wrote.

The case captured international attention as a seeming cauldron of sex, violence, power and politics: A promising French presidential contender, known in his homeland as the Great Seducer, accused of a brutal and contemptuous attack on a West African immigrant who had come to clean his plush suite.