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Published: Sunday, 9/19/2010

American woman held in Iran for year arrives in U.S.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — An American woman who was held in Iran for more than 13 months and accused of spying returned Sunday to the United States, a spokeswoman said.

Sarah Shourd arrived in the country Sunday morning after leaving Oman Saturday, spokeswoman Samantha Topping said. She wouldn't specify where Shourd's flight landed but said Shourd was on her way to New York for a news conference later Sunday, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also is due to arrive in the city to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

Shourd, her fiance and another man were detained in July 2009 along the Iran-Iraq border. Iran has issued espionage-related indictments, which could bring trials for the two men and proceedings in absentia for Shourd.

The Americans' families say they were hiking, and if they crossed the border, they did so accidentally.

Shourd was freed Tuesday after officials in Oman — an ally of both Iran and the United States — mediated a $500,000 bail.

Her fiance, Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal are still being held.

Before boarding an Oman Air flight at Oman's international airport, Shourd asked supporters to “extend your prayers” to Bauer and Fattal. Shourd, 32, made no mention of her experiences inside Tehran's notorious Evin Prison or any health problems, which her mother has said include a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells.

She also expressed special gratitude to Oman, which helped secure a bail arrangement that satisfied Iranian authorities and apparently did not violate U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. The source of the bail payment has not been disclosed.

“I'll always associate your country with the first breath of my freedom, the sweet smell of sandalwood and a chance to stand by the ocean listening to the waves,” she said Saturday.

Earlier in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said he was hopeful the United States would release several Iranians now that Shourd has been freed.

Ahmadinejad has suggested in the past that the three could be traded for Iranians held in the U.S., raising concerns that the Americans were to be used as bargaining chips as the two countries face off over issues like Iran's disputed nuclear program. In December, Iran released a list of 11 Iranians it says are in U.S. custody.



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