Allies defend Strauss-Kahn, allege conspiracy

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Allies of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn defended him Sunday after he was arrested on sexual assault charges, with one alleging the scandal was a conspiracy to disrupt global finance.

"I am convinced it is an international conspiracy," said Michelle Sabban, a senior councillor for the greater Paris region and a Strauss-Kahn loyalist.

"It's the IMF they wanted to decapitate, not so much the Socialist primary candidate," she said, in a nod to rumours of political interests in the arrest of Strauss-Kahn, whom polls have pegged as favourite for the French presidency.

"This is a new form of political assassination," Sabban said. "They wanted to block the IMF. This is international finance."

Strauss-Kahn had not yet formally announced his bid to run for president for the opposition Socialist party and was still trotting the globe as head of the International Monetary Fund, a key player in handling the financial crisis.

Police arrested him on a plane about to take off from New York on Saturday and charged him with trying to rape a maid in a hotel room. US media said the chambermaid had entered his hotel suite believing it was unoccupied.

"It's not like him. Everyone knows that his weakness is seduction, women. That's how they got him," Sabban said. "How can you get into the room of the head of the IMF like that? And then he just calmly caught his plane?"

Sniping by Strauss-Kahn's political rivals was growing in an election fight that risked getting ever dirtier, against a backdrop of long-standing claims about Strauss-Kahn's conduct in private with women.

Polls have shown that Strauss-Kahn, known as DSK, could comfortably beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election.

"This affair is not at all like DSK, the man we all know," said another close ally, Socialist lawmaker Jean-Marie Le Guen. "We should refrain from drawing any conclusions before Dominique Strauss-Kahn has spoken."

Strauss-Kahn's wife Anne Sinclair said in a statement she "doesn't believe for a second" the accusations.

© 2011 AFP

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