US woman who was held in Iran says she`s not a spy

Sarah Shourd thanks Iranians and Ahmadinejad in a carefully scripted return.

New York: An American woman who was held in Iran for more than 13 months and accused of espionage said on Sunday she and two men detained with her never spied or committed any crime, calling their arrest "a huge misunderstanding”.

Discussing her experience at the most length since her release on Tuesday, Sarah Shourd underscored her gratitude at being released but said she felt only "one-third free" because her fiancé, Shane Bauer, and their friend Josh Fattal remain in Tehran`s notorious Evin Prison.

"This is not the time to celebrate," Shourd, 32, said at a New York news conference. "The only thing that enabled me to cross the gulf from prison to freedom alone was the knowledge that Shane and Josh wanted with all their hearts for my suffering to end."

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New York to attend the UN General Assembly. He later met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss developments in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East and efforts to resolve the dispute over Iran`s nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad said, "We`re very glad that that lady was released. (Due) to the humanitarian perspective the Islamic Republic chose to adopt on the subject, she was released on bail. And we hope that the other two will soon be able to prove and provide evidence to the court that they had no ill intention in crossing the border, so that their release can also be secured."

Tying the case to Iran`s assertion that some of its citizens are being held unjustly in the United States, he said, "It certainly does not give us joy when we see people in prison, wherever in the world that may be, and even when we think of prisoners here."

Composed but occasionally pausing when her voice wavered with emotion, Shourd thanked Iranians and Ahmadinejad in a carefully scripted return that spoke to the continuing delicacy of her situation. She didn`t take questions or discuss the conditions in which she`d been held, walking away from the podium at a Manhattan hotel hand in hand with her mother, Nora, before Fattal`s and Bauer`s mothers answered reporters` queries.

Shourd grew up in Los Angeles, Bauer is a native of Onamia, Minn, and Fattal grew up in Pennsylvania.

Bureau Report