Strauss-Kahn back in public life with China speech

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Former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn returned to public life Monday, seven months after his arrest on sexual assault charges that were later dropped, with an economic forum speech in Beijing.

Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign as the head of the International Monetary Fund following accusations of sexually assaulting a hotel maid, a scandal that made headlines worldwide and halted his ambitions for the French presidency.

The charges were dropped in August, but apart from a handful of media appearances in which he has sought to defend his record, Strauss-Kahn has largely withdrawn from public life.

On Monday, he refused to speak about his arrest or his resignation from the IMF, replying to reporters' questions with a curt "no comment" before delivering a 45-minute speech on the dangers facing debt-burdened Europe.

"A monetary union without a central budget is something which doesn't make sense," he told the forum, organised by the Chinese Internet company NetEase.

"I am not quite sure Mrs. (Angela) Merkel and Mr. (Nicolas) Sarkozy clearly understand each other and that's probably one of the reasons why the whole European system has problems going forward," he added, referring to the German chancellor and French president.

"None of the main problems has been addressed. There's no central budget in Europe, no institutional centre, no lender of last resort, no expansion of the monetary policy."

Strauss-Kahn, once tipped to beat Sarkozy in France's 2012 presidential elections, was taken off a plane to Paris in May after maid Nafissatou Diallo said he had attacked her in an upmarket Manhattan hotel.

The charges were dropped after prosecutors said Diallo lied about details of her allegations, but they and subsequent claims of sexual misconduct in France were enough to end Strauss-Kahn's political ambitions.

The former French finance minister has been to Beijing several times in recent years, notably in August 2007 when he was running for the top job at the IMF, then afterwards when he was holding the position.

The forum, attended by prominent international economists, was to examine prospects for the world economy and the outlook for growth in China, the NetEase website said.

© 2011 AFP

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