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IMF applauds Strauss-Kahn but Paris return may be more muted


He has successfully made his apologies to his former colleagues at the International Monetary Fund, but it is not clear how soon Dominique Strauss-Kahn will return to Paris. The former director was spotted making a "personal" visit to the IMF's headquarters in Washington DC on Monday. He had served there as its director until his arrest in May on charges of attempting to rape a New York hotel maid forced his resignation.

It was his first visit to the institution since all charges against him were dropped by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jnr, a week ago.

After driving himself from his home in the surburb of Georgetown with his wife, Anne Sinclair, in the passenger seat, Mr Strauss-Kahn had a brief meeting with Christine Lagarde, who replaced him as director, before speaking to an auditorium packed with employees eager to hear him one last time.

By all accounts, the man who was once thought a front-runner for next year's presidential contest in France was received warmly, despite the trauma of the past three months.

"He received a very warm welcome," said Paulo Nogueira Batista, who represents Brazil and a group of eight Latin American countries at the IMF. "It reflects the fact that he is very much appreciated in the institution. People clapped for very long periods."

The aftertaste of the affair still lingers in a variety of ways. The Guinean-born maid is pursuing a civil case against Mr Strauss-Kahn. In France, meanwhile, he is facing separate allegations that he attempted to rape a young French writer, Tristane Banon, in 2003. He in turn has accused her of slander.

A lawyer for Mr Strauss-Kahn said his client had no immediate plans to leave Washington for Paris, though he was likely to return quite soon. Once there, he will find both the country and the Socialist Party that once wanted him as its presidential candidate still at odds over the meaning of the chamber maid affair. The latest leading French figure to call Mr Strauss-Kahn's character into question is Michel Rocard, a socialist elder statesman and former prime minister, who suggested his record of encounters with women pointed "clearly to medical problems".

"This man quite obviously has a mental illness that makes it difficult for him to control his urges," Mr Rocard told Canal+ television's Grand Journal news.