By Joseph Ax and Noeleen Walder

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the hotel maid who accused him of sexual assault will appear in New York state court next week to brief a judge on the status of settlement talks in the maid's civil case against him.

The setting of the court date comes just days after a source familiar with the matter said the two sides had reached a preliminary agreement to settle the case.

"The parties have been directed to appear before me on December 10 to report on the status of settlement discussions," Justice Douglas McKeon, the Bronx County Supreme Court judge overseeing the case, said on Tuesday. "If the case settles, this will be announced in open court on that date."

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers in the United States and France have acknowledged that a deal was under discussion but said last week that no settlement had been reached. They denied a report that the 63-year-old had agreed to pay the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, $6 million to end the lawsuit.

A source familiar with the case said the amount of any settlement would likely be the subject of a confidentiality agreement.

The scheduling of the status conference, however, may signal that a final deal has been reached. Lawyers for both Strauss-Kahn and Diallo did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday morning.

Diallo accused Strauss-Kahn of attacking her in his luxury hotel room in Manhattan on May 14, 2011. The allegations led to Strauss-Kahn's arrest, forced his resignation from the IMF and destroyed his status as a frontrunner for the French presidency.

The criminal charges were dropped in August 2011 after New York prosecutors developed doubts about Diallo's credibility. Diallo filed the civil lawsuit against Strauss-Kahn a few weeks before the case was dismissed.

Strauss-Kahn, who has said that the encounter with Diallo was a "moral error" but was entirely consensual, filed a countersuit against her, claiming defamation.

Even as the U.S. case appears close to an end, Strauss-Kahn is awaiting a decision by a French court on December 19 on whether to call off an investigation involving parties in Lille attended by prostitutes, where he risks trial on a charge of "aggravated pimping.

In recent months, Strauss-Kahn has been making an under-the-radar comeback with a handful of speaking engagements at private conferences and by setting up a business consultancy firm in Paris.

If the Lille case is dropped and Diallo ends her civil lawsuit, Strauss-Kahn would be freer to pursue his consultancy work and could even consider a return to public life in France, where he has been shunned since the Diallo scandal.

(Editing by Dan Burns and Jackie Frank)