The leader of the International Monetary Fund and a possible candidate for president of France was pulled from an airplane Saturday afternoon moments before he was to fly to Paris and was being questioned by police in connection with the sexual assault of a hotel maid, police said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was taken off the Air France flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport by officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and turned over to police, said Paul J. Browne, New York Police Department spokesman.

Strauss-Kahn was being questioned by the police department's special victims office. He had retained an attorney and was not making statements to police, Browne said.

"He's being arrested for a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment," Browne said.

The 32-year-old woman told authorities that, after she entered Strauss-Kahn's room in the Sofitel near Manhattan's Times Square at about 1 p.m. Saturday, he emerged from the bedroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he began to sexually assault her, Browne said. After she fought him off, he dragged her into the bathroom, where he assaulted her and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again, escaped from the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said. They called police.

When New York City police detectives arrived moments later, Strauss-Kahn already had left the hotel, leaving behind his cell phone and other personal items, Browne said.

The maid was taken by police to an area hospital.

Strauss-Kahn was briefly investigated in 2008 over a relationship with a woman who worked for him. The IMF board ruled that the relationship was consensual.

The 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn, rejected by the French Socialists as their presidential candidate in 2006, gained international recognition as France's finance minister in 1997-99.

He is considered a possible challenger to French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's election.

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