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Iran Releases Scholar From Prison

The Iranian-American who was freed from detention here early Thursday was released after his family paid bail and has not yet been given permission to leave the country, a judiciary official said.

The man, Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with ties to Open Society Institute, which is associated with the George Soros Foundation, was arrested in May on security-related charges and spent 131 days in solitary confinement at the notorious Evin prison. He is one of four Iranian-Americans detained here recently and the third among them to be released.

His family posted bail worth nearly $107,000, a judiciary official told the IRNA news agency. But the official said Tajbakhsh would not be allowed to leave the country until a judge gives him permission.

“I am very happy that I am home,” he said in a telephone interview from his apartment in Tehran. “I am glad that any remaining part of the investigation can be completed with me out of prison.” He declined to discuss the charges against him.

Zimbabwe Political Standoff May Be Easing

A wisp of hope emerged Thursday that Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and its political opposition, long implacable enemies, were starting to edge toward a compromise in their nation’s deepening crisis.

Legislators from both sides joined Thursday in Parliament to unanimously approve constitutional changes that clear the way for Zimbabwe to hold presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously next year. The vote was a clear concession by the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, which had called the proposal to move to joint elections from separate elections a plot to dilute its electoral power.

But at the same time, ZANU-PF, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, and its leader, President Robert G. Mugabe, made an unprecedented concession, surrendering Mugabe’s power to appoint 10 legislators to Parliament’s dominant lower house, the House of Assembly.

Those and other changes to the electoral system apparently arose from talks mediated by South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki. The Southern Africa Development Community, a body of regional leaders, asked Mbeki in March to try to broker a solution to Zimbabwe’s gridlock.

Zimbabwe has been gripped by an accelerating political crisis and economic decline since 1999, and its inflation rate — officially near 7,000 percent, but widely judged by experts to be twice that — is the world’s highest. Mugabe’s autocratic government regularly represses critics, and Western governments and analysts say the electoral system is rigged to favor the ruling elite.

Cholera Case Reported in Baghdad

Iraqi health officials confirmed the first cases of cholera in Baghdad on Thursday, in a sign that an epidemic that has infected approximately 7,000 people in northern Iraq is spreading south through the country’s decrepit and unsanitary water system.

The World Health Organization and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society said they had confirmed at least one case of cholera in Baghdad, though Iraq’s Ministry of Health did not confirm it. Hospital sources said there could be at least two other confirmed infections, connected to a death in Kut and one in Tikrit.

Officials said there was a further possible outbreak in Diyala, an area north of Baghdad, and in Kut, southeast of Baghdad. The World Health Organization has already reported an outbreak of the disease in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya, and 10 people are known to have died. But the disease is now moving from the north into more unstable areas of the country where it could be even harder to treat and contain.