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Freed Journalist Saberi Leaves Iran

Roxana Saberi and her father, Reza, on arrival from Iran at Vienna's airport on May 15

Roxana Saberi and her father, Reza, on arrival from Iran at Vienna's airport on May 15

LONDON -- U.S.-born journalist Roxana Saberi has arrived in Austria from Iran days after being released from a Tehran jail after being acquitted of charges of spying for the United States.

"We can confirm that she has arrived in Vienna," said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Austria's capital who declined further comment.

Earlier, her Iranian lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, told Reuters the 32-year-old freelance reporter had left Tehran on an overnight flight for Europe and would continue to the United States.

News channels have broadcast images of Saberi and her parents at Vienna's international airport.

Saberi has both U.S. and Iranian citizenship and has worked for NPR and the BBC.

She was arrested in January for working in Iran after her press credentials had expired. She was later accused of spying, found guilty and jailed for eight years but had her sentence cut to two years, suspended, on appeal, and released from prison.

"She was well but upset that she could not return to Iran soon to do reporting," Khorramshahi added.

Saberi's other defense lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, said on May 12 that the change in the verdict was due to a different interpretation of the relevant law, not because of political considerations.

But her release on May 11 removed a possible hindrance to President Barack Obama's attempts to thaw U.S. relations with the Islamic Republic after three decades of enmity.

Obama welcomed Saberi's release as a "humanitarian gesture."

The two countries are in dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which the West fears is aimed at making atomic bombs. Iran says it is to generate electricity.

The United States had said the charges were baseless and had demanded Saberi's immediate release. Tehran does not recognise dual nationality and told Washington not to interfere.

Obama has offered Iran a fresh start in relations, though Iran says Washington must first show real policy change.

Analysts and diplomats have said Saberi's arrest should not be seen as a sign that Iran is rejecting Obama's overture, but say her case and her release may have been influenced by it.

Some saw the arrest as a warning to foreign media ahead of Iran's June presidential election, while others say it could have been a bid by hard-liners to obstruct any thaw in U.S.-Iran ties or to use her as a "bargaining chip."

Reuters with additional wire reporting