- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TEHRAN | The American woman released by Iran on Tuesday after more than a year in prison said she was grateful to Iran’s president for her freedom shortly before she boarded a flight to the Gulf sultanate of Oman, where her mother greeted her with a warm embrace.

Iran freed Sarah Shourd, 32, after arrangements were made to satisfy Iran’s demand for $500,000 bail. American officials said neither the U.S. government nor the family put up the money for the bail, and they thanked U.S. ally Oman, which they said had played a critical, behind-the-scenes role in securing Miss Shourd’s release.

However, the case, which has deepened strains between the U.S. and Iran was still far from resolved.

Shortly after announcing Miss Shourd’s release, Iranian authorities said they are not considering the immediate release of the two Americans arrested with Miss Shourd — her fiance, Shane Bauer, and their friend, Josh Fattal. Iran has charged all three with spying, though their families say they were innocent hikers arrested in a scenic mountain area along Iran’s border with Iraq.

“I want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people, that have been involved, and especially, particularly want to address President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and all of the Iranian officials, the religious leaders, and thank them for this humanitarian gesture,” Miss Shourd told Iran’s English-language Press TV at the airport before she flew out.

“I’m grateful and I’m very humbled by this moment,” she added. “I’ve learned a lot from women in the Middle East in this part of the world and I have a lot of respect for women and the tradition that surrounds them. I just want to assure you that my commitment to truth will not change. You know, when I go back to my country and I will never say anything but the truth to media and I will not succumb to any pressure.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad has said Miss Shourd was being released on compassionate grounds because of health reasons. Her mother says she has serious medical problems, including a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells.

Miss Shourd arrived in Oman on a private government jet after a flight of about two hours. She was greeted with an embrace from her mother and then, looking relaxed and smiling, they strolled arm in arm on their way out.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton both thanked Oman for its assistance, and U.S. officials said Omani negotiators were key in the release.

The Omanis worked with Swiss diplomats and the Iranian judiciary to win her freedom, particularly in resolving the issue of bail, the officials said.

Oman “in recent days and weeks became a key interlocutor to help us work this case with the Iranian government,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “And we are very grateful to the role that Oman has played.”

Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, said a $500,000 bail had been paid to Iran’s Bank Melli in Muscat, Oman, but did not say who paid it.

A U.S. official said neither the U.S. government nor the families of the hikers had paid the bail but could not say who else might have paid it. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

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