Writer's twist to Strauss-Kahn saga

France's leading left-wing presidential contender is to be questioned by police over claims he knew Dominique Strauss-Kahn had allegedly tried to rape a young writer in 2003.

Former Socialist Party chief Franois Hollande is the latest senior politician to be drawn into the sex scandal that has engulfed the French ruling elite.

Writer Tristane Banon, 32, has insisted she told Mr Hollande eight years ago about an alleged sex attack by the former head of the International Monetary Fund.

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Police will now interview Mr Hollande over suggestions that he covered up the attack on Miss Banon to protect his left-wing ally, Strauss-Kahn.

The inquiry into Mr Hollande's alleged conduct could further discredit the Socialist Party's 2012 election campaign. It suffered a battering after the arrest in New York of presidential hopeful Strauss-Kahn, who was accused of trying to rape a hotel chambermaid.

Police said they intended to interview Mr Hollande as a witness.

It also emerged yesterday that Miss Banon's mother, Anne Mansouret, a 65-year-old Socialist Party regional official, has confessed to police that she had sex with Strauss-Kahn, two years before his alleged attack on her daughter.

She told investigators that she had "brutal but consensual" sex with Strauss-Kahn ten years ago in his office at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.

French police interviewed one of his four daughters, Camille Strauss-Kahn, a Columbia University graduate student and a friend of Miss Banon, on Monday. Miss Banon accuses Strauss-Kahn of behaving like a "rutting chimpanzee" when he sexually assaulted her two years later in a Paris flat where she had gone to interview him.

When later confronted by his former wife over the alleged attack on Miss Banon, Strauss-Kahn is said to have admitted: "I don't know what came over me.

"I had sex with the mother - but I blew a fuse when I saw the daughter."

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Miss Banon has said she did not bring charges eight years ago because, at the time, everyone her told her the case would "never succeed".

But she said she did tell some senior French figures about the attack, including Mr Hollande.

He has admitted he knew about Miss Banon's allegations in 2003 but said he had received "no detailed information" and simply advised her to go to the police if she thought a crime had been committed. He also suggested that it was now time - eight years after the alleged attack - to let the matter rest.

Mr Hollande is currently leading the race for the Socialist presidential nomination. Polls suggest he could beat sitting president, the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and be elected president in next May's election.

Meanwhile, Strauss-Kahn has denied attacking Miss Banon and is suing her for libel. His lawyer in Paris, Henri Leclerc, said: "Her claims are imaginary. It never happened."Paris police will hand the result of their investigations into Miss Banon's claims to prosecutors, who will decide whether Strauss-Kahn should face charges and be tried. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years' jail.

In New York, Strauss-Kahn's trial has now been adjourned to August amid fears the alleged rape victim may have lied to police.

Miss Banon posted a message on Facebook yesterday thanking online "friends" for defending her name against heavy criticism on French websites. Critics have questioned her motives in coming forward eight years' late and cast doubt on her credibility.