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Freed Florida student heads home

After nearly three months as an Iraqi hostage, 19-year-old John Charlton is looking forward to being a normal American university student. "I want to see all my friends again, be able to move around without any problems and have some good American food," the Florida teen-ager said after arriving in Amman Tuesday night from Baghdad with 13 other Americans freed by Iraq.

Charlton had been visiting his father, a U.S. Embassy employee in Kuwait, when Iraq invaded its tiny neighbor Aug. 2.

The clean-cut teen-ager from Saint Leo College in Florida said he and his mother were held at the U.S. Embassy there with about 100 other Americans before being moved to Baghdad at the end of August.

"They told us that we were all going to go to Jordan so we thought "okay we'll go to Baghdad and go on to Jordan' and when we got to Baghdad they said we couldn't go," Charlton said in an interview at an Amman hotel before going out with other released students to look for pizza.

He said Iraqi officials told families of U.S. Embassy staff in late August that they would be allowed to leave Iraq through the Turkish border.

"When we got to the Turkish border they said at first we could go across and then 10 minutes before we were supposed to go they took away our passports and canceled our visas so we had to go back to Baghdad," Charlton said.

He said his mother was later released but his father, also named John Charlton, who supervised maintenance at the Kuwait embassy, is still detained.

The younger Charlton, who along with about 100 others did not step outside the Kuwait embassy compound until he was moved to Baghdad, was spared seeing the devastation inflicted by the Iraqi army.

He was allowed to telephone the United States from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and said the 50 Americans held captive in the embassy had enough food and water.

"We had all brought food in and we shared it with each other _ we had a lot of tuna fish," he said.

Charlton, who plans to leave today for the United States to try to resume his studies, said he believed U.S. troops deployed in the gulf were helping to keep peace there.

"The Iraqi people in general are pretty nice and polite. I mean I have nothing against them," he said.

"But Kuwait _ I don't think they should have invaded Kuwait. I mean it's a nation too it's so small and stuff they've helped out Iraq in the past, I don't see why Iraq should want more."

A British hostage said before flying to freedom late Tuesday that Westerners held as human shields at an Iraqi armaments factory protested mistreatment by sadistic guards and a starvation diet, but no shots were fired and no one was injured.