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US protesters confront Yemen leader

A protest against embattled Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh outside a luxury hotel in New York erupted in fury when demonstrators saw him leave the building.

One demonstrator charged towards him and another threw a shoe, in a classic Arab insult.

"Everybody is living in fear of this guy at home, but here, he's getting good treatment," said Yemeni immigrant Nasser Almroot, a Brooklyn grocer.

The dozen angry protesters were kept behind police barricades across the street from the Ritz-Carlton hotel, which was teeming with security guards, both inside and on the pavement where Mr Saleh passed.

The 69-year-old leader, in the United States for medical treatment, left the hotel in Central Park South and waved and smiled sardonically towards the protesters - even blowing them a kiss. Suddenly, one of them tried to charge across the street but was restrained by police, who wrestled him to the ground.

As the man bolted out, a shoe flew in Mr Saleh's direction. Showing the sole of a shoe is an insult in Arab culture, because it is on the lowest part of the body. To hit someone with a shoe is seen as even worse.

Mr Saleh got into his car and his motorcade left for an unknown destination.

Since he arrived in New York about a week ago, the president has kept a low profile. His presence, however, has been controversial.

On Sunday the protesters hoisted placards bearing photos of Yemenis badly bloodied and brutally killed during his government's year-long crackdown on anti-Saleh demonstrations.

Mr Saleh signed a deal in November to transfer power to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution. An election is scheduled for February 21 to select his successor in a nation mired in poverty and divided among powerful tribes and political factions.

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