The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was retained by US authorities on the JF Kennedy Airport in New York on Saturday minutes before flying to Paris, in connection with sexual assault allegations. He is questioned about allegations that he assaulted a housekeeping maid at a New York hotel. The news prompted IMF to provide public assurances the Fund was operating at full capacity following the incident, while politicians in France were shocked at the news.

Dominique Strauss KahnFoto: AGERPRES

Accusations against Strauss Kahn include rape attempt and illegal retention of a person, according to international news agency reports.

According to Reuters, IMF head's legal representatives would plead not guilty at the charges. IMF did not comment the information immediately.

JFK airport authorities said they retained Strauss Kahn based on information received from US police, following detectives' investiations of a "brutal attack" on an employee of the Sofitel Hotel in downtown New York. The woman, 32, was assaulted in a hotel room at about noon on Saturday, according to authorities quoted by CNN.

Strauss Kahn was considered to be the favorite candidate of the Socialist Pary in the upcoming presidential elections in France. A former economy professor, he joined politics in the eighties and became a deputy, later serving as Minister of Finance in the Socialist government led by Lionel Jospin.

He attempted to win the Socialist Party nomination in the 2007 presidential race but lost before Segolene Royal. Several months later, he was proposed to lead the IMF, with the support of French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

He had been involved in previous scandals: the 2008 allegations that he was sexually involved with a subordinate and for helping a devoted follower become an employee at the IMF.

The new allegations against DSK come a year after a book was published on his sexual affairs.

A series of scenarios circulating on Sunday referred to attempts to compromise DSK politically so that he drop his presidential aspirations in France.

The IMF only said it remained completely operational following the incident, which the institution said it would not comment upon.

In France, Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry said the incident was a devastating blow and urged the party to prove unity in the circumstances. She said it was vital that the presumption of innocence was complied with.