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Wed Jul 30 23:18:20 SAST 2014

Strauss-Kahn smells freedom - and flowers

Sapa-AFP | 24 August, 2011 17:49
File photo of Dominique Strauss-Kahn smiling as he departs a hearing at the New York State Supreme Courthouse in New York
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn smiles as he departs a hearing at the New York State Supreme Courthouse in New York
Image by: LUCAS JACKSON / REUTERS

Dominique Strauss-Kahn kept holed up in a New York townhouse on his first morning of real liberty in more than three months, but there was no indication of when he might return to France.

A late morning delivery of flowers to the luxury brick house at 153 Franklin Street broke the monotony for a growing crowd of journalists camped waiting for the French politician to emerge.

Someone in a bright orange shirt opened the curtained door a crack and took the big bouquet, which was wrapped in white paper so that even the type of flowers remained hidden.

Otherwise, there was no movement -- not a twitch of the blinds in the glass doors or eight windows -- from the $50,000 a month property in which Strauss-Kahn and his millionaire wife Anne Sinclair have taken refuge.

On Tuesday, a judge threw out sex assault charges against the powerful French politician. Prosecutors said the Sofitel hotel maid who accuses him of forcing her into oral sex when she went to clean his room could not be believed.

Shortly after the ruling, Strauss-Kahn and his wife celebrated with dinner at an Italian restaurant called L'Artusi in Manhattan's hip Greenwich Village neighbourhood.

But he still didn't have his passport, which authorities confiscated from the then head of the International Monetary Fund at the time of his humiliating arrest May 14.

A rare earthquake along the US east coast meant offices in New York closed early Tuesday and although Strauss-Kahn was free he was told to wait until Wednesday to recover the document.

Neighbours in the exclusive Tribeca neighbourhood of Manhattan said they couldn't wait to see an end to the sordid affair -- or the departure of the photographers, TV crews and reporters staking out Strauss-Kahn's house.

"Imagine what it's been like for the people living here?" said Wickham Boyle, as she cycled down the exclusive, cobbled street. "It's an extension of what he does," she said jabbing a finger at Strauss-Kan's temporary digs. "It's the colonial mentality."

And Beatrice Clairay, a French real estate agent living one block away, said she wouldn't miss her compatriot.

The so-called DSK affair -- in which Strauss-Kahn says that a brief, hardcore sexual act with the maid was consensual -- has embarrassed and infuriated many people in France, where he was until recently seen as a likely next president.

"I have no particular sympathy for DSK," Clairay, 47, said. "He has to learn to seduce women in a more elegant way."

She said the prospect of him leaving and the media circus vanishing "makes me smile."

Relatives back home have been making fun of her predicament, she said, but she also happens to have an aunt living across the street from the Strauss-Kahn's in Paris.

"They joked at me and I say: 'Don't worry -- he's coming your way now!'"

Dutch tourist Tom Stolk, 47, was glad to have glimpsed this piece of media street theatre before the curtains come down.

But he said he expected Strauss-Kahn -- unlike US president Bill Clinton after his own sexual peccadillos in the 1990s -- to remain in the shadows.

"You can make a political comeback if your name is Bill Clinton, but no, his career is ruined," Stolk said.

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Wed Jul 30 23:18:20 SAST 2014 ::