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updated 5/19/2011 12:38:40 AM ET 2011-05-19T04:38:40

Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund, the IMF said in a statement issued Wednesday as he faced charges of sexual assault and attempted rape in New York.

"I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me," Strauss-Kahn said in his letter of resignation, released by the IMF.

He said the resignation came with "infinite sadness" but was needed to protect the IMF, "which I have served with honor and devotion."

"I think at this time first of my wife — whom I love more than anything-of my children, of my family, of my friends.

"I think also of my colleagues at the Fund; together we have accomplished such great things over the last three years and more."

He said he would "devote all my strength, all my time, and all my energy to proving my innocence."

The IMF said John Lipsky would remain the institution's acting managing director and that its executive board will soon reveal the process of replacing Strauss-Kahn.

The hotel maid accusing Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her "has not had a moment of peace" since their encounter made international headlines, her lawyer said Wednesday.

The woman, a 32-year-old immigrant from the west African nation of Guinea, was to testify before a grand jury sometime Wednesday about the incident at a penthouse suite at a luxury hotel in midtown Manhattan, lawyer Jeffrey Shapiro said on NBC's TODAY.

"This is a woman who is a rape victim — the victim of a physical assault — who since this has taken place and since she has reported it to security at the hotel, has not had a moment of peace. She's not been able to return home. She's not been able to seek any help," said Shapiro, a New York City personal injury lawyer.

She has gone into hiding amid fears for her family's safety, he said.

The woman is a widow with a 15-year-old daughter. They moved to New York from Guinea about seven years ago, Shapiro said.

"She came from a part of the world where laws were few and far between and that justice wasn't readily available, at least to people without means," Shapiro told TODAY. "When she found out that this encounter that she had had was with a man of great power and wealth, she fears not only for herself but maybe more importantly her daughter."

Prosecutors have accused Strauss-Kahn, 62, of attacking the maid Saturday afternoon when she entered his suite at the Sofitel Hotel, apparently unaware it was occupied, to clean it.

Video: IMF chief on suicide watch at NYC jail (on this page)

Prosecutors allege Strauss-Kahn attempted to rape her and then, when unsuccessful, forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Strauss-Kahn, one of France's most high-profile politicians who was a potential candidate for president in next year's elections, through his lawyers has denied any wrongdoing. He is being held under suicide watch in a jail at Rikers Island on charges of a criminal sexual act, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. He was denied bail on Monday and is due to reappear in court on Thursday for another bail hearing.

In court papers filed Wednesday, Strauss-Kahn's attorneys proposed posting $1 million cash bail and confining him to the home of his daughter, Camille, a Columbia University graduate student, 24 hours a day with electronic monitoring.

Strauss-Kahn "is a loving husband and father, and a highly regarded diplomat, politician, lawyer, politician, economist and professor, with no criminal record," his attorneys said in court papers.

The attorneys had proposed similar conditions at an earlier bail hearing but added the promise of home detention Wednesday. Manhattan prosecutors didn't immediately comment on the bail motion. The hearing was set for 2:15 p.m. Thursday. Another hearing had been set for Friday, the deadline for prosecutors to indict Strauss-Kahn.

He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Shapiro said his client was told by a friend a day after the incident that the man she had accused of attacking her was Strauss-Kahn.

"She feels that she can't go home," Shapiro said, adding that his client felt "scared" and "incredulous" after learning his identity.

Shapiro dismissed suggestions that the woman had made up the charges or tried to cover up a consensual encounter.

"There was nothing consensual about what took place in that hotel room," he told TODAY.

Investigators on Wednesday cut out a piece of carpet in a painstaking search for DNA evidence that could corroborate the maid's claim, law enforcement officials said.

New York detectives and prosecutors believe the carpet may contain Strauss-Kahn's semen, spat out after an episode of forced oral sex, the officials said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Story: Questions, answers about Dominique Strauss-Kahn

In addition to examining the Sofitel Hotel suite for further potential DNA evidence, they were looking at the maid's keycard to determine whether she used it to enter the room, and how long she was there, officials said.

'No agenda'
Earlier, Shapiro told Reuters that after the woman "escaped from the room, she reported it to security, the New York City police were called, they interviewed her, they investigated the scene."

"She has no agenda in this other than to answer the questions that are asked of her, to tell the truth," he said.

Story: IMF chief a 'honey trap' victim? Conspiracy theories swirl

The woman, who is not a U.S. citizen but says she has a visa to work in the U.S., has a limited education and experience, but had worked hard to obtain her job as a maid at the Sofitel, Shapiro said.

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Her identity has been withheld in U.S. media publications, in accordance with standard journalistic practice. But media outlets in France, where Strauss-Kahn is from, began reporting her name Tuesday.

Among the outlets to identify the woman by name are Paris Match, radio station RMC, Swiss newspaper Tribune de Genève and Slate.fr, according to Slate.com. (Slate.fr is a French website that is editorially independent from Slate, although Slate does own 15 percent of it.)

Story: Essay: When powerful men cross the line

Slate.fr, citing relatives of the accuser, said the woman was from the Fulani ethnic group and a Muslim.

"She is a good Muslim. She is really pretty, like many Fulani women, but in our culture, we do not accept this type of aggression," a cousin of the woman told slate.fr.

Story: IMF chief's arrest may speed up succession battle

The New York Times reported she was granted asylum seven years ago.

The woman phoned her older brother in New York about an hour after the alleged sexual assault and said, "Somebody has done something really bad to me. I've been attacked," Britain's Daily Mail reported Tuesday.

"No family should have to go through this," the woman's brother told the newspaper. "She is a hard-working woman who is just a victim. She is a wonderful West African immigrant who just wants to work hard."

NBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: French society soul-searching over Strauss-Kahn case

  1. Transcript of: French society soul-searching over Strauss-Kahn case

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: And now to the scandal involving some serious sex crime charges against the head of the International Monetary Fund , Dominique Strauss Kahn . His lawyers here in New York are going to court tomorrow to try and persuade a judge he should be allowed to bail out of Rikers Island jail here in New York . Meanwhile in France , where bad behavior by men is often de rigueur and public figures get to have private lives, there's some rethinking going on. Michelle Kosinski live tonight for us in Paris . Michelle , good evening.

    MICHELLE KOSINSKI reporting: Hi, Brian. That initial angry shock here over Strauss Kahn 's arrest, the talk of conspiracy theories have really now evolved into a much closer look at his behavior over the last few years. And in this city where flirtation is almost a part of daily life, a closer look at French society itself. The uproar started with the sight of those handcuffs, that walk for the cameras.

    Ms. NICOLE BASHERON: The reaction is shock to everything.

    KOSINSKI: And growing. A young journalist, who in the past claimed Dominique Strauss Kahn had sexually attacked her, now regrets not pressing charges nine years ago and is considering doing so. There's a closer look at a one-night affair he had three years ago with a IMF subordinate who described him as having coerced her and having a problem. Another journalist who says Strauss Kahn repeatedly, aggressively offered her interviews in exchange for sex, which she declined. A politician who says Strauss Kahn groped her, and still more, according to writer and historian Nicole Basheron .

    Ms. BASHERON: A lot of women are talking to each other, you know, in the political circle, in the media circle, saying they were a witness of the -- they had encounters with him where they could sense it -- he was an aggressive womanizer.

    KOSINSKI: Not necessarily criminal, but many here in France say such things are often simply brushed aside.

    Unidentified Woman: The debate is good for the women, it's good for them to speak about sexual harassment.

    KOSINSKI: A popular online journalist is even asking why didn't the press talk about Strauss Kahn 's private life , that this ought to be a lesson for no longer ignoring certain characteristics.

    Ms. BASHERON: The French are opening a conversation about the limit between what is private and public, what is, you know, maybe aggressive courtship, womanizing, and criminal conduct. Where is the border there?

    KOSINSKI: And what that border should be between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. One paper said Strauss Kahn 's only problem was the way he treated women. And now the French are asking that question that we in the US seem to have had to ask many times recently, for such an intelligent, successful man, the front-runner to be the next French president , if this happened the way his accuser says it did, how could he have risked everything like this? Brian :

    WILLIAMS: Michelle Kosinski in Paris for us tonight. Michelle , thanks.

Timeline: Dominique Strauss-Kahn

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