U.S. woman held in Iran leaves Oman on way home

MUSCAT Sat Sep 18, 2010 6:08pm EDT

1 of 4. Sarah Shourd (2nd R) receives a gift from an unidentified Omani official after her news conference in Muscat September 18, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

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MUSCAT (Reuters) - Sarah Shourd, one of three Americans held in Iran for more than a year on suspicion of spying, left Oman on Saturday on her way home to the United States.

Shourd, 32, was detained near the Islamic Republic's border with Iraq in late July 2009 along with two male companions, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal. Their families say the three were on a mountain hike in northern Iraq at the time.

She arrived in the Gulf Arab state of Oman on Tuesday and flew to Dubai on Saturday, in transit to New York.

"I thank Sultan Qaboos and the Omani authorities for hosting me in Oman," she said at a news conference shortly before her departure from Muscat, a witness told Reuters.

"I would like to thank the American ambassador for hosting my family," she said, asking people to pray for the release of her two male companions.

Iran should free the two remaining U.S. citizens as a "significant humanitarian gesture", U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday.

U.S. officials and the detainees' families have rejected Iran's charges of espionage, saying they simply strayed across the border while on a mountain hike in northern Iraq.

Shourd's family say she has been denied treatment for health problems, including a breast lump and precancerous cervical cells.

Under Iran's Islamic law, espionage can be punishable by execution. The case has further complicated relations between Tehran and Washington, fraught over Iran's disputed nuclear activities.

(Writing by Jason Benham in Dubai; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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