Britain's Gove offers support to foreign secretary over Iran comments

Britain's Gove offers support to foreign secretary over Iran comments

Britain's Gove offers support to foreign secretary over Iran comments

The foreign secretary told MPs: "Of course I apologise for the distress, for the suffering, that has been caused by the impression that I gave that I believed that she was there in a professional capacity".

Johnson later apologized for his comment, but Iran's state broadcaster said it was an implicit admission of guilt.

Gove told the BBC's Andrew Marr he "didn't know" why the woman was in Iran, but that he would "take her husband's assurance" that she was on holiday in the Islamic Republic.

He said that she is "angry" with him and upset every time they speak on the phone.

Richard Ratcliffe said his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, had seen a doctor but was on "the verge of a nervous breakdown".

Johnson has been heavily criticised for suggesting Zaghari-Ratcliffe was not visiting family in Iran, as she has always claimed, but was instead training journalists - a claim which has been used by Iranian state media to justify fresh charges against her.

The statement said: "She noted that she is very down, that she can not handle all this".

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Mr Gove was then told her husband's explanation for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's visit.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard claims the 38-year-old was plotting to overthrow the regime, and the Briton has been denied access to consular assistance. "Who is in the dock here?"

Mr Johnson told a Commons committee earlier this month that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "training journalists" in Iran at the time of her arrest a year ago. Concern over her physical and mental health is growing, and neither Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe nor her husband has had access to their daughter, who is being looked after by her grandparents in Iran.

"So will the Foreign Secretary today accept the impact that his words have had, accept the distress that has been caused to Nazanin and apologise properly for that - not apologise for upsetting people, apologise for getting it wrong?"

Allies of Mr Johnson have reportedly said he was given an incorrect briefing by Foreign Office officials ahead of a committee hearing at which the comments were made.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Prime Minister Theresa May should fire Johnson for "embarrassing and undermining our country with his incompetence and colonial throwback views and putting our citizens at risk".

He said: "Nazanin is being held because she is British and is being used as a bargaining chip against the United Kingdom, now justified by your words". He has urged Johnson to travel with him to Tehran to press for her release and said Sunday the foreign secretary was seriously considering the suggestion.

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