Iran frees fourth U.S. dual national -news agency

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TEHRAN, Sep 25 (Reuters) Iran has released on bail a US-Iranian peace activist, Ali Shakeri, the last of four dual nationals to be freed after being detained on security-related charges, an Iranian news agency said today.

Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, was arrested in May at a Tehran airport as he was about to leave Iran. He was then transferred to Evin prison, rights groups say.

Iran confirmed his detention in June and said he was being held on security-related charges. Three other dual nationals were also detained but have since been freed on bail. Two of them have now left the country.

Iran's ISNA news agency said Shakeri was released on bail of about 0,000 on Monday night.

''Now he is not allowed to leave the country. To remove the ban, he needs the special permission of the judge of his case,'' ISNA said.

Political analysts have seen the US-Iranians' detention as part of a broader crackdown on dissent while Tehran is under Western pressure over its nuclear programme, which Washington sees as a bid to acquire nuclear bombs. Iran denies that is so.

Analysts have also linked the dual nationals' arrests to the detention by US forces in Iraq of five Iranians who Washington says were supporting insurgents. Tehran says the men are diplomats and should be freed. It rejects any connection with the arrests in Iran.

Some analysts have said the releases may signal Tehran's desire not to escalate the standoff with the United States, which has said it wants a diplomatic solution to the atomic row but has refused to rule out a military option if that fails.

Shakeri's release coincides with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the United Nations in New York. One Western diplomat suggested the latest move might be a way to defuse criticism of the president and Iran during his trip.

New York-based group Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Saturday that Shakeri, 59, had been held in solitary confinement at Evin for more than four months without charge.

REUTERS ARB ND1410

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