The revelations by The New York Times that the Strauss-Kahn case was about to collapse because of doubts over the alleged victim's credibility had the effect of a bombshell in France.

Friends of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who have stood by him through thick and thin say they have been vindicated and that the former International Monetary Fund chief was the victim, not the aggressor. The news that the Prosecutor in New York might dismiss the case has once again thrown open the possibility of a Strauss-Kahn candidacy for next year's presidential poll. The news could not come at a worse time for incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, who was the main beneficiary of Mr. Strauss-Kahn's downfall.

Socialist Party heavyweights like general secretary Martine Aubry, who announced her candidacy for the Socialist Party primary to be held next October and the former Socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, said they were delighted by the news.

“It is as Dominique's friend that I speak today. I would like to stress that the news, which has come to us through the American press, fills me with joy as it does his other close friends. I hope the U.S. justice system will establish the truth once and for all and allow him to come out of this nightmare,” Ms. Aubry said.

Lionel Jospin described the news as “a bolt of lightening.”

The camp of Mr. Strauss-Kahn's main rival, Francois Hollande, was far more prudent. Mr. Hollande, who stood to gain the most on the Left from Mr. Strauss Kahn's precipitous exit from the French political scene, said he hoped “the new elements that have emerged will lead to a dismissal of the accusations levelled against him.”

Others in France such as Michele Sabban, an elected official of the Paris region, who have never deviated from their conspiracy theory, said the collapse of the case the day after Christine Lagarde's appointment as the new Managing Director of the IMF confirms their contention that there was a conspiracy to oust the former IMF chief.

Many in France feel that the likely collapse of the case, if confirmed, could place Mr. Strauss-Kahn in an unbeatable position. “He never denied having sex with the maid. He denied the charge of rape. We know him within the Socialist Party and I can look you in the eye and say that Strauss Kahn is not an aggressive person. If someone is not willing he is not the type to force himself on that person. He has never denied having a weakness for women. And his interview given to Liberation on May 27 in which he spoke of the dangers that lay in store for him if he took the political plunge — women, religion [Mr. Strauss-Khan is Jewish] and lifestyle — has proved prescient to say the least. He should return to France and lead the socialists to victory,” said long-time socialist worker Annette Laforet.

Needless to say, the silence in the right wing camp led by President Nicolas Sarkozy is deafening.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon on a visit to Indonesia, when pressed by journalists to comment on The New York Times report, said it was for the moment “just a rumour.” He added: “I was not willing to comment on the affair earlier, I am not willing to discuss the issue now.”

However, several questions are bound to emerge. Why did the Elysee Palace, when contacted by the hotel's security guards not stop the arrest from taking place in the spectacular way in which it was conducted? How is it that the story was first broken by Jonathan Pinet, a young member of President Sarkozy's party on a social networking site even before major media outlets heard the news.

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