WASHINGTON - Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the embattled managing director of International Monetary Fund, resigned saying he wanted to devote "all his energy" to battle the sexual assault charges he faces in New York.
The IMF's executive board released a letter from the French executive Wednesday in which he denied the allegations lodged against him but said that with "sadness" he felt he must resign. He said that he was thinking of his family and that he wanted to protect the IMF.
"It is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the executive board my resignation from my post of managing director of the IMF," the five-paragraph letter said. "I think at this time first of my wife whom I love more than anything of my children, of my family, of my friends. I think also of my colleagues at the Fund. Together we have accomplished such great things over the last three years and more.
"To all, I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me. I want to protect this institution which I have served with honor and devotion, and especially especially I want to devote all my strength, all my time and all my energy to proving my innocence."
Strauss-Kahn, who faced increasing international pressure to quit, announced his decision on the eve of a bail hearing Thursday that could have spelled the end of his leadership of the IMF anyway. He faces charges of assaulting a maid at a New York hotel.
The maid, a 32-year-old immigrant from the West African nation of Guinea, told police that the 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn came out of the bathroom naked, chased her down, forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear before she broke free and fled the room.
If a New York judge denies bail for Strauss-Kahn or imposes highly restrictive conditions on his freedom, the IMF's executive board would have expected him to resign, two senior IMF officials said earlier Wednesday. If he didn't, the board could have removed him on the grounds that he couldn't lead the IMF from a jail cell or far from its Washington headquarters.
Strauss-Kahn was to have a bail hearing before a New York judge on Thursday. Sources tells CBS News that his legal team will offer to post at least $1 million at the hearing, submit to electronic monitoring and remain in New York while facing charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the highly sensitive situation. Strauss-Kahn is jailed in New York City. Attempts to reach his lawyers were unsuccessful.
The IMF's statement late Wednesday said the process of choosing a new leader would begin, but in the meantime John Lipsky would remain acting managing director.
One of the IMF officials said earlier Wednesday that the fund had yet to speak with Strauss-Kahn since his weekend arrest. There were no procedures for suspending or placing its leader on extended leave.
While Strauss-Kahn remains confined to a Rikers Island jail cell, the dividing lines are sharpening in a dispute over whether someone from a rich or an emerging economy should lead the IMF after his exit.
Europe is aggressively staking its traditional claim to the top position. But fast-growing nations such as China, Brazil and South Africa are trying to break Europe's grip on an organization empowered to direct billions of dollars to stabilize the global economy.
Europeans have led the IMF since its inception after World War II. Americans have occupied both the No. 2 position at the IMF and the top post at its sister institution, the World Bank. The World Bank funds projects in developing countries.