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Saberi, Freed From Iranian Prison, Wants To Rest, Be With Her Family

Roxana Saberi speaks to journalists outside her home in Tehran on May 12.

Roxana Saberi speaks to journalists outside her home in Tehran on May 12.

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- U.S.-born reporter Roxana Saberi, free after more than three months in an Iranian jail, has said she wanted to rest and be with her family after she was acquitted of spying for the United States.

The 32-year-old, whose father said she had been on a two-week hunger strike in prison, made her first public appearance since she walked free on May 11 after her eight-year sentence was cut to two years, suspended for five years.

Her release removed a snag in U.S. President Barack Obama's attempts to improve U.S.-Iranian relations after three decades of mutual mistrust.

On May 11, Obama welcomed Iran's move to free Saberi as a "humanitarian gesture."

Reza Saberi said his daughter had made "statements under some pressure" after her arrest in January that she later took back and this was accepted by the appeal court.

"She allegedly pleaded guilty first and then retracted her statements," he said, without elaborating.

Even though she appeared to have lost weight while in jail, she was visibly more relaxed and rested than when she arrived at a Tehran court on May 10 for a hearing on her appeal against her April 18 conviction. A day later, she was freed.

"I'm very happy to be released and to be with my father and mother again," a smiling Saberi told reporters outside her apartment building in the capital, wearing a blue headscarf.

"I'm thanking all those people around the world who knew me or who didn't know me but helped my release. Right now I just want to be with my parents and my friends and to rest a little bit," the former Miss North Dakota said.

Her laywer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, said she may leave Iran next week.

'Access To Documents'

Reza, who moved to the United States in the 1970s but returned with his wife to follow their daughter's case, said the family planned to leave Iran but did not say when.

"Last night she had a good sleep and she ate food," he said. "Of course, prison is not pleasant for anyone."

Saberi, a citizen of both the United States and Iran, was arrested for working in the Islamic republic after her press credentials had expired. She was later accused of spying.

The United States had said the charges were baseless and demanded her immediate release. Tehran does not recognize dual nationality and told Washington not to interfere.

The two countries were already locked in an acrimonious dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which the West fears is aimed at making arms. Iran says it is to generate electricity.

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

Saberi's defense lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi said she faced no legal restrictions on leaving Iran.

He said Saberi in the appeal hearing had "accepted she had made a mistake and got access to documents she should not have. But there was no transfer of any classified information."

Another member of the defence team told the ISNA news agency the court had acquitted her of spying but convicted her under a law covering offenses including taking pictures or videos in areas where photography is banned.