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Dominique Strauss-Kahn: I felt 'trapped, humiliated'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Did Strauss-Kahn mea culpa fall short?
  • The former IMF head acknowledges "moral weakness"
  • He denies any sexual assault took place at a New York hotel
  • The woman's attorneys question his claim of consensual sex
  • Strauss-Kahn denies attempting to assault French writer Tristane Banon

Paris (CNN) -- The former head of the International Monetary Fund, arrested on sexual assault charges and then released after his accuser's credibility was questioned, acknowledged "moral weakness" in an interview Sunday but denied any violence or aggression.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn told French television station TF1 the incident at the Sofitel involving a Guinean maid was "not only an inappropriate relationship, but more than that -- an error, a mistake, a mistake concerning my wife, my children, my friends, but also a mistake that the French people placed their hope in change on me."

"There was a weakness," he said. "It was greater than a weakness, it was a moral weakness, a moral mistake, and I'm not proud of this. I regret this. I've regretted it throughout these days, through these four months, and I believe I've not finished regretting.

"I had a feeling I was trapped, humiliated," he said of the accusations. He said he was deeply wounded by the images and the media reports surrounding the allegations.

He spoke of being hounded by reporters and scrambling to find a place to stay that would satisfy court security requirements. "This was expensive," he said, but "... either that or return back to (jail)."

Once considered a front-runner candidate for the French presidency, Strauss-Kahn, 62, was pulled off a Paris-bound plane on May 14 and arrested after the sexual assault allegations. Days later, he resigned from the IMF and was put on house arrest after spending a few days in New York's Rikers Island jail.

But questions arose about the credibility of the maid, identified as Nafissatou Diallo, prompting prosecutors to drop the charges against Strauss-Kahn. He returned to France earlier this month.

Prosecutors pointed out that there was "neither material proof nor any credible evidence" that an assault took place, Strauss-Kahn told the station. And a prosecution report said there were no signs of violence to the woman, he said.

It was greater than a weakness, it was a moral weakness, a moral mistake, and I'm not proud of this. I regret this
--Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Authorities said the woman told differing versions of the story, Strauss-Kahn said. "If there was the slightest accusation that remained, there would have been a trial."

Strauss-Kahn's attorneys have previously said the two were involved in consensual sex.

Diallo's attorneys have filed a civil lawsuit against Strauss-Kahn. Asked Sunday whether he and his attorneys will negotiate with her, Strauss-Kahn said they would not.

"I've always had respect for women," he said. "... I've paid heavily. I'm still paying for this."

Douglas Wigdor, one of Diallo's attorneys, said he looks forward to asking Strauss-Kahn questions under oath, and hearing his responses.

"We have still not heard what Mr. Strauss-Kahn has said happened in that room. ... We're waiting for that. We had hoped that this would happen today, but it didn't," he told CNN's Don Lemon after the interview.

"If Mr. Strauss-Kahn thinks that people in France will really believe that he was able to convince Ms. Diallo, who had never met him before and did not know that he was in the room, to engage in sexual acts with him within a matter of minutes, then he should describe how that happened," Wigdor and Kenneth Thompson, the woman's attorneys, said in a statement released before the interview Sunday. "We suspect that he will not do so because any story that he describes will not be plausible."

They noted the French journalist who interviewed Strauss-Kahn is a friend of his wife's. "As everyone knows, Ms. Diallo sat down with unbiased journalists and investigative reporters who were permitted, without any conditions, to ask questions about Ms. Diallo and the deplorable acts that Mr. Strauss-Kahn committed against her," the statement said.

Strauss-Kahn told the station that his wife, French journalist Anne Sinclair, is "an exceptional woman ... I'm so lucky to have her by my side. I have hurt her. I know this. I begrudge myself, but you know, she would not have been like this, she would not have supported me, if she had not known from the first second that I was innocent."

He said he wanted to be a candidate in the 2012 French presidential elections. "I wanted to be useful and bring answers, and that is all behind me," he said. "Quite clearly, I cannot be a candidate, even if I've continued to think about it ... I do not wish to be in the primaries."

French journalist Tristane Banon has filed a complaint against Strauss-Kahn in France, alleging he attempted to sexually assault her in 2003. He has filed a counter-suit alleging slander.

Asked about Banon's allegations Sunday, Strauss-Kahn said he met with her recently and "I said the truth to her in this meeting. There was no act of aggression, there was no violence. ... The version that was presented was imaginary."

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.