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Offer of settlement probed in sex assault

Prosecutors are exploring whether a lawyer for the hotel maid who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault discussed the possibility of a financial settlement with his lawyers and suggested she could back away from the criminal case, people familiar with the matter said Friday.

The woman's lawyer denied the allegation.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office is looking into whether housekeeper Nafitassou Diallo's lawyer and Strauss-Kahn's attorneys talked about a potential deal after prosecutors began questioning her credibility, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The allegation against me is absolutely false," Diallo's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, said in an email message Friday.

The DA's office and Strauss-Kahn lawyer Benjamin Brafman declined to comment.

The criminal case against the former International Monetary Fund leader is on uncertain ground after prosecutors said Diallo had lied to them about her background and was inconsistent about what she did immediately after the alleged May 14 attack. Strauss-Kahn denies the allegations, and his lawyers are urging prosecutors to drop the case.

Diallo and Thompson have pressed prosecutors to keep pursuing case, saying her account of Strauss-Kahn forcing her to perform oral sex in his Sofitel hotel suite is true. Diallo also sued Strauss-Kahn earlier this month, seeking unspecified damages. His lawyers have said the suit is meritless and shows Diallo is out to make money from Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn, of France, had been considered a leading candidate for the French presidency, before the alleged attack.

Prosecutors want to know whether Thompson broached a possible settlement with Strauss-Kahn's attorneys in June, before the suit was filed and during a more than two-week period when Diallo wasn't talking to prosecutors, the people familiar with the matter said. The communication breakdown came after she acknowledged to prosecutors that she had fabricated a story about having been gang-raped in her native Guinea -- a tale she had initially told to enhance her U.S. asylum application and repeated to prosecutors.

Thompson has said he cut off her contact with prosecutors at the time because they had brought her to tears.

Thompson didn't immediately respond to questions about whether he'd had discussions of any kind with Strauss-Kahn's camp and whether prosecutors had asked him for information about such talks.

But he called the overall suggestion a "baseless attack" that is "designed to distract people from the fact that Dominique Strauss-Kahn violently attacked and sexually assaulted an innocent woman inside that hotel room."

The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual attacks unless they agree to be named or identify themselves publicly, as Diallo has done.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, is due back in court Tuesday, when prosecutors may say whether they plan to continue the criminal case.

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