Dominique Strauss-Kahn spoke for the first time Sunday about the sex scandal that forced him to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund, saying the incident was a "moral failing" but no violence occurred.

In an interview with French broadcasters TF1 Strauss-Kahn admitted he had done something wrong but that it wasn't what he had been accused of.

"[It] was not only an inappropriate relationship, but more than that, it was a failing ... a failing vis-a-vis my wife, my children and my friends but also a failing vis-a-vis the French people, who had vested their hopes for change in me," Strauss-Kahn said.

Before being arrested last May Strauss-Kahn was considered a frontrunner for the French presidency.

Sexual encounter

A hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, claimed he attacked her when she entered his room in Manhattan's Sofitel hotel. After a lengthy investigation U.S. prosecutors in New York dropped the charges.

Strauss-Khan said there was a sexual encounter but it  "did not involve violence, constraint or aggression."

He resigned from the IMF because of the scandal but now faces allegations of attempted rape in 2003 levelled by a Tristane Banon, French writer. He has denied the accusation.

During the interview Strauss-Kahn thanked his wife, saying he would not have been able to get through such a trying time without her support.

Strauss-Kahn also defended the large sums of money spent on his defence in the Diallo case. In addition to his legal team's fees, Strauss-Kahn was also initially subject to extensive and expensive bond conditions, including security measures estimated at about $200,000 US a month, on top of the $50,000-a-month rent on a town house in New York's trendy TriBeCa neighbourhood.

While he understood that they could seem shocking "compared with the daily difficulties that French people face," he said he felt he had to do everything within his means to stay out of prison in Riker's Island, where he had initially been detained for nearly a week.

More than 100 people from feminists groups demonstrated outside the television studio during his interview Sunday.

A poll released after the interview showed the French public completely divided, with about half expressing a wish for Strauss Kahn to permanently withdraw from politics and the other half hoping for some advice to help the country out of the economic crisis.

With files from The Associated Press