Two Americans freed after four months in one of Iraq's most notorious prisons said Monday they were angry at being behind bars "for nothing" but stressed they were "treated fairly."
William Barloon, 39, of New Hampton, Iowa, told a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, the Jordanian capital: "Everybody's done a great job, and we're just so happy to be looking at all of you right now."He and David Daliberti, 42, of Jacksonville, Fla., arrived in Amman just after noon Monday with Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., after a 12-hour overnight journey across the desert highway from Baghdad.
President Saddam Hussein of Iraq released them Sunday at Richardson's request - an action the United States said was taken with no strings attached.
The Americans, dressed in blue jeans, sneakers and T-shirts, looked exhausted and relieved. Barloon had lost weight, and Daliberti's mustache was trim.
"We're angry that we were in prison for four months for nothing," Daliberti said. "But we were treated fairly. We weren't tortured or whipped or beaten."
Barloon and Daliberti, engineers working for U.S. defense contractors in Kuwait, were arrested in southern Iraq on March 13 after they crossed the border.
They insisted they strayed across the border accidentally while visiting friends at a U.N. post, but the Iraqi government, suspecting the men were American spies, convicted them March 25 of illegally entering Iraq.
"It was an innocent mistake," Barloon repeated Monday.
Saddam issued a statement saying he released the men on humanitarian grounds- a decision made despite a U.N. Security Council decision last week to extend trade sanctions against Iraq for another 60 days.
He apparently was hoping the move would help to persuade the U.N. Security Council to ease the crippling trade embargo on Iraq, imposed four days after it invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990.
Monday, Saddam threatened that unless the sanctions are lifted soon, he will halt all cooperation with the United Nations.
The Americans were vague when asked about the conditions in the maximum security Abu Ghraib prison, a heavily guarded facility west of Baghdad where many political detainees are held.
An embassy official cut off a question about conditions in the prison, saying the men had not yet been questioned.
Barloon and Daliberti said they had suffered from heart problems in prison.
Daliberti said he had a history of heart trouble and that Iraqis took great care to provide them both with medical facilities and doctors available around the clock.
"I don't have a whole lot of experience with prisons," he said. "They're not a very nice place to be, probably no matter what country you're in."
Richardson said Daliberti, whose family is in Florida, will accompany him back to Washington. Barloon, whose family lives in Kuwait, has "other plans," he said.
Officials said Richardson and Daliberti will catch a midnight flight to London and from there fly to Washington.
Barloon's wife, Linda, was on a business trip to Singapore on Sunday when she learned of his re-lease.
Interviewed by the Associated Press in Singapore Monday, Linda Barloon said she still did not know when or where she and her husband would reunite after their "horrendous ordeal."
Kathy Daliberti, speaking on NBC-TV's "Today" show from Jacksonville, said there was "great joy, a lot of happiness out here in the United States."
She said she talked to her husband for about five minutes Sunday. "He was choked up, he was happy, he was excited, he couldn't believe he was finally out of there."
Richardson said his meeting with Saddam followed two months and eight sessions of negotiations with the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations.
Richardson said he supported President Clinton's policy to continue the sanctions and that the release was purely a response to his humanitarian appeal.
"In the end, there were no preconditions, no deals, no concessions," he said. "President Saddam made the decision for executive clemency on humanitarian grounds."
Saddam said in a speech Monday that it was "high time that Iraq be rewarded" for cooperating with U.N. resolutions since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
"From now on, we'll make no sacrifices that will not be reciprocated," he said.
Richardson, describing the Iraqi leader as "tough," said Saddam "showed warmth at cetain times."
He said that when Saddam informed him of his decision to pardon the two Americans, he grabbed the Iraqi leader's hand in a spontaneous show of thanks.
"I think it was purely a human gesture that he appreciated," Richardson said. "My hope is that while our countries may have differences, perhaps there's hope for a better relationship."