Banon said she was afraid of meeting the man who she says locked her in a Paris flat and assaulted her [Reuters]

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has appeared at a French police station for a face-to-face meeting with Tristane Banon, the French writer who has accused him of a 2003 rape attempt.

The meeting took place on Thursday, without lawyers present, a process that is common in French justice when two people in a case give different versions of events.

Banon, 32, arrived by car followed around half an hour later by Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist politician, with a large crowd of photographers waiting for them.

Police are investigating the allegation before prosecutors decide whether to press charges.

The meeting could bring investigations to a close, after which the prosecutor could decide that there is no case, or that the alleged crime happened too long ago or that a prosecution is warranted.

Banon said on Saturday that she was afraid of meeting the man she says locked her in a bare Paris flat in 2003 and assaulted her.

Police have already interviewed about 20 witnesses in the case, including Socialist leader and presidential hopeful Francois Hollande.

Banon first made her allegations public on television in 2007, but only brought them to magistrates after a chambermaid at a New York hotel accused Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault in May.

The New York prosecutor's case collapsed last month after doubts were raised over the credibility of his accuser, Guinean immigrant Nafissatou Diallo, who is still seeking damages from a US civil court.

'Rutting chimpanzee'

Banon accuses Strauss-Kahn of wrestling with her "like a rutting chimpanzee" after luring her into an unfurnished Paris flat on the pretext of offering her an interview for a book she was writing.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, has admitted making "an advance" on Banon, but denies any use of violence and has lodged a lawsuit for slander against the writer over her claim.

Banon's complaint is for attempted rape rather than sexual assault or harassment, and if the prosecutor decides to downgrade the charge, Strauss-Kahn would be protected by a statute of limitations on the lesser crimes.

She has said that she will bring a civil suit if there is no criminal prosecution.

Banon told a television interviewer last week that she was keen to confront her alleged abuser in front of police.

"I want him in front of me so he can look into my eyes and say to my face that I imagined it," Banon said.

Following the incident with the chambermaid in New York, Strauss-Kahn apologised to his country saying it was a "moral error" he would regret all his life, and vowed to stay out of the Socialist Party's 2012 election campaign in France.

Source: Agencies