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Strauss-Kahn returns home to France

Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn has returned to France for the first time since New York prosecutors dropped sexual assault charges brought against him by a hotel maid.


REUTERS - Dominique Strauss-Kahn, his presidential hopes shattered by a sex assault scandal that rocked his homeland, returned on Sunday to France, where he faces a frosty reception from the public and unease among his political allies.

The former IMF chief arrived at Paris’s Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport at about 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) with his wife Anne Sinclair. Police escorts whisked the couple through the terminal, past waiting media, and into a car.

Dressed in a suit and smiling, Strauss-Kahn arrived at his appartment in the luxurious Place des Vosges square in central Paris an hour later. He waved, but made no comment as he pushed through a sea of flashing media cameras.

His homecoming marks the end of a three-month struggle through New York’s criminal court system after he was charged with attempting to rape a New York hotel maid. The case was dropped after her credibility was thrown into doubt.

His Socialist Party allies have cheered the withdrawal of charges against the man formerly tipped as a possible favourite to win the 2012 presidential election, but the damage to his image from the affair make his future unclear.

"Let’s not put pressure on him," Francois Pupponi, a close ally and mayor of the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles where Strauss-Kahn built his political base as mayor in the late 1990s.

"He needs to rebuild himself," Pupponi told LCI television, moments after the couple arrived at Roissy. "What’s important is that he is back in France. He is going to be able to think about the future with more clarity."

French media said Strauss-Kahn was expected to make a statement later in the day.

Future uncertain

The shock arrest in mid-May of the former finance minister, one of France’s most talented economic thinkers, thrust the country’s political landscape into turmoil, with the main opposition Socialists forced to find alternative candidates.

Many of Strauss-Kahn’s former backers have now repositioned themselves behind either former party leader Francois Hollande, who is leading opinion polls for the Socialist primary contest, and his rival Martine Aubry.

In the days before his homecoming, Socialists maintained an uneasy silence about Strauss-Kahn’s future role in politics, with a recent survey showing that about two-thirds of French voters do not wish to see him take a government post if the Socialists win power next April.

Despite initial anger in France at the way he was paraded before media cameras in handcuffs, many in France are uncomfortable with the details dredged up by the case about Strauss-Kahn’s private life and reputation as a womaniser.

Hollande has spoken vaguely of a role for Strauss-Kahn in the election with no mention of a ministerial post.

Aubry was similarly equanimous this week when she told Canal+ television she agreed with other women when it came to Strauss-Kahn’s attitude toward the opposite sex.

Of his closest allies, Pierre Moscovici, a former Socialist minister, has become campaign coordinator for Hollande. Veteran leftist Jean-Christope Cambadelis is backing Aubry.

Former Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard said on Monday that Strauss-Kahn "has a mental illness ... He’s out of the game." He later apologised for the remark.

Adding to his troubles, Strauss-Kahn still faces a civil case in New York and an accusation of attempted rape by a woman 30 years his junior in France.

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