New York: IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was arrested on Sunday after being charged with attempted rape, sexual assault and unlawful imprisonment of a hotel maid here. A likely candidate for French President in 2012, Kahn was being pulled out from a Paris-bound airplane, minutes before it was to take off.

62-year-old Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund since 2007, was taken off an Air France plane's first-class cabin at the John F Kennedy International Airport and apprehended by detectives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"The IMF chief will plead not guilty to all charges," Taylor said.

The New York Police Department arrested Kahn at 2:15 am Sunday "on charges of criminal sexual act, attempted rape, and an unlawful imprisonment in connection with a sexual assault on a 32-year chambermaid in the luxury suite of a Midtown Manhattan hotel yesterday" about 1 pm, Deputy Commissioner Paul J Browne, the department's chief spokesman, said.

Browne said that it was about 1 pm local time on Saturday when the maid entered Strauss-Kahn's USD 3,000-a- night suite of Sofitel New York hotel, believing it was unoccupied.

As she was in the foyer, "he came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her," Browne was quoted as saying by NYT. "He grabs her, according to her account, and pulls her into the bedroom and onto the bed," Browne said, adding he locked the door to the suite.

"She fights him off, and he then drags her down the hallway to the bathroom, where he sexually assaults her a second time," he said.

MSNBC television reported that in the bathroom, the IMF chief forced the maid to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. He also allegedly tried to lock her in the bathroom.

At some point during the assault, the woman broke free and "fled, reported it to other hotel personnel, who called 911. When the police arrived, he was not there," Browne said, adding Strauss-Kahn appeared to have left in a hurry.

Investigators found his cellphone in the room, which he had left behind, and one law enforcement official said that investigation uncovered forensic evidence that would contain
his DNA.

Strauss-Kahn drove to the airport to catch the Paris bound Air France Flight 23. As he settled down in the first class cabin, two detectives of the Port Authority suddenly
boarded the plane and took him out, John P L Kelly, a spokesman for the agency said.

"It was 10 minutes before its scheduled departure," said Kelly. "They were just about to close the doors."

Kahn housed at Special Victims Unit

Strauss-Kahn was being housed at the police department's Special Victims Unit.

In Washington, the IMF said, "Strauss-Kahn has retained legal counsel, and the IMF has no comment on the case; all inquiries will be referred to his personal lawyer and to the local authorities."

"The IMF remains fully functioning and operational," said a statement issued by Caroline Atkinson, the IMF's head of external relations.

Kahn apologises

He was later cleared of the charge by an internal inquiry. Kahn had then apologised to IMF staff and his wife, US-born French TV personality Anne Sinclair.

"While this incident constituted an error in judgement on my part, for which I take full responsibility, I firmly believe that I have not abused my position," Kahn wrote in an
email to IMF staff after the affair became public.

Sinclaire is his third wife. He has four children from two previous marriages.

Strauss-Kahn, had served as France's Minister of Economy and Finance from 1997 to 1999.

A Port authority spokesperson said, Strauss Kahn was traveling alone and was not handcuffed during the arrest. The IMF chief "complied with the detectives' directions," Kelly
said.

(Agencies)