NEW YORK – The head of the International Monetary Fund was charged Sunday in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a housekeeper at a Manhattan hotel Saturday, a New York police spokesman said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62, who was removed from a Paris-bound flight in New York minutes before takeoff Saturday, was questioned by the New York Police Department’s special victims office and arrested at 2:15 a.m. Sunday on charges of a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment, a spokesman said.

Strauss-Kahn’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said Sunday his client would plead not guilty. Brafman is one of the city’s most high-profile defense attorneys, whose clients have included celebrities such as Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and ex-New York Giants star Plaxico Burress.

The Washington-based IMF on Sunday named John Lipsky acting managing director. An IMF spokesman said the organization’s standard procedures dictate that he assume the acting managing director role when the managing director is “not in D.C.”

A spokesman said IMF deputy managing director Nemat Shafik, who oversees the group’s work in various European Union countries, would attend today’s meeting in Brussels, where Strauss-Kahn was heading.

The arrest promises to shake up politics in France, where Strauss-Kahn is widely thought to be considering challenging French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s election. Polls have indicated that he would have a good chance of defeating Sarkozy.

Sarkozy’s government spokesman, Francois Baroin, said Strauss-Kahn should benefit from the innocent-until-proven-guilty principle and called on political figures and commentators to use caution in dealing with his case.

The alleged sexual assault occurred around 1 p.m., police told the Associated Press.

The housekeeper told authorities she entered Strauss-Kahn’s suite at the luxury Sofitel hotel not far from Manhattan’s Times Square, and that he attacked her. She said she was planning to clean the spacious $3,000-a-night suite, which she thought was empty, according to the AP.

Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he began to sexually assault her, the woman told police, according to the AP. She said she fought him off, but he then dragged her into the bathroom, the AP reported.

The woman was able to break free again, escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, and they called police, authorities said. Strauss-Kahn bolted the hotel room, leaving behind his cell phone, police told the AP.

The NYPD learned Strauss-Kahn was on a plane bound for France and asked officers with the Port Authority of New York to board the plane and remove him.

An economist and lawyer who has gained prominence while leading the IMF through one of the world’s worst financial crises, Strauss-Kahn joined the organization in 2007 with the support of the United States and many European nations.

He previously served as France’s finance minister and is the subject of intense speculation in France on whether he will declare his candidacy for president as a member of the Socialist Party. He unsuccessfully ran for his party’s nomination in the last election.

At the IMF, Strauss-Kahn has overseen a number of crucial emergency loan packages for troubled economies, most recently for Greece and Pakistan.

The organization also is being eyed to help orchestrate potential bailouts for Portugal and Ireland as Europe suffers a painful debt crisis. And it is working to help Egypt as that country tries to stabilize its economy in the post-Hosni Mubarak era.

“This sordid episode — no matter how it ultimately plays out — will spell the end of Strauss-Kahn as an effective leader of the IMF even if he retains his position, which is highly unlikely,” said Eswar Shanker Prasad, an international economics professor at Cornell University. “With Strauss-Kahn’s departure, the IMF can no longer be counted on to watch Europe’s back as it becomes increasingly clear that the EU-IMF program in Greece is not working.”