PARIS (Reuters) - Dominique Strauss-Kahn will come face-to-face with a French woman who has accused him of trying to rape her, a Paris court said on Friday, in a confrontation procedure that will be part of a preliminary police inquiry into her complaint.
The meeting will throw attention back onto an inquiry that Strauss-Kahn hopes will come to nothing as he tries to recover from a New York sex scandal that derailed his IMF career and wrecked his chances of running for French president next year.
The court said a meeting would be held with Strauss-Kahn and his accuser Tristane Banon present so that investigators could compare their versions of an incident in a Paris apartment in 2003, when she says he tried to rape her.
It did not say when the meeting would take place.
The former International Monetary Fund chief, who has already been questioned by French police and denies Banon's accusations, would be "available at the court's request," his lawyer said.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, returned home to France this month and apologized in a television interview for the "moral error" of his nine-minute sexual encounter with a New York hotel maid that triggered his arrest and a three-month U.S. legal battle.
The U.S. charges were dropped due to doubts about the maid's credibility. However, Strauss-Kahn's efforts to turn the page have been hampered by accusations from Banon, a journalist and writer 30 years his junior, that he tried to force himself on her when she went to interview him for a book she was researching.
As a Paris prosecutor weighs up whether or not to escalate the current probe into a full-scale judicial investigation, Banon, 32, has said repeatedly that she wants to confront Strauss-Kahn face-to-face over the incident.
Legal sources expect the prosecutor to drop the case for a lack of evidence so long after the event, in a potential boon to Strauss-Kahn who lamented in the September 18 TV interview that he had lost everything because of the New York scandal.
The statute of limitations for attempted rape in France is 10 years, but for sexual assault it is just three years.
Banon has told French media that Strauss-Kahn grabbed her during the interview and tried to remove her clothes, leading to a struggle. She has said she would appeal a decision to downgrade her complaint.
According to police sources, Strauss-Kahn has said he tried to kiss Banon but denies sexual assault. He called her accusations imaginary and slanderous in his TV appearance.
Opinion polls show most French people want Strauss-Kahn to stay out of politics, and one survey found one respondent in three thought his TV apology did nothing to improve his image.
Strauss-Kahn also faces a civil case in New York over the incident at the Manhattan Sofitel.
(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Catherine Bremer and David Stamp)