BORIS Johnson has made a grovelling apology for causing distress to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family after his gaffe about why the jailed British mum was in Iran.
The Foreign Secretary was responding to an urgent question in the Commons on the woman’s case after her wrongly claimed she was in Tehran “teaching journalists”.
He told MPs: "My remarks on the subject before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee could and should have been clearer and I acknowledge that the words I used were open to being misinterpreted.
“And I apologise to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family if I inadvertently caused them any further anguish.”
The minister, who said he plans to travel to Iran by the end of the year to help with her case, added: "I reject any suggestion that she was there in a professional capacity.”
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted by of plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic's clerical establishment, which she denies.
Mr Johnson also revealed he is to meet with Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of her being offered "diplomatic protection" by Theresa May’s Government as way of helping speed up her release.
It comes after Downing Street said it was “one of the options” being considered in the case after he suggested it at the weekend.
It is thought that legal advice will have to be taken before determining whether the status – which would raise Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's plight from a consular case to a formal dispute between the two countries – is the best method for speeding her release.
Mr Johnson's apology comes after Mr Ratcliffe penned an open letter to Boris Johnson, saying: “It is time for the UK government to take responsibility for Nazanin’s suffering and its role in prolonging it.”
In an article for the Evening Standard he said her dual British-Iranian citizenship is not acknowledged in Iran, which means her rights as a British citizen have been ignored.
Mr Ratcliffe said: “My understanding is that the UK Government could decide that she meets the criteria of diplomatic protection.
“That she is British, she’s been punished because she is British and there’s clear evidence that there has been violation of her rights.
“I suggested it. Mr Johnson said he would take it into consideration.”
In response Number 10’s official spokesman said: "I think that the foreign secretary has obviously spoken with her husband and that is one of the options being looked at.”
And asked about the prospect of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe being given diplomatic protection, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We remain very concerned about all our dual nationals detained in Iran and are doing everything we can in each of their cases, including trying to secure access to them and ensure their welfare.
"We will continue to do this in the way that we judge is in their best interests."
But the No10 spokesman declined to respond to calls for Mr Johnson to face the sack saying: "The entire Government is working towards securing her release as quickly as possible.
"Our focus needs to be on the case itself and on doing everything we can to try secure her release.
“Her husband has said this morning that he wants us to be focused on securing her release, and that's what we are doing."
That is in reference to the fact Mr Ratcliffe had not joined those calling on the Cabinet minister to qui over his gaffe, saying it would not be “helpful for Nazanin”.
But he did accuse Mr Johnson of making his wife’s situation a lot worse, and called on him to do more to fix the situation.
He wrote to him: “The net effect of that is that she is in danger. I want you to solve this mess created in your name.”
And the gaffe was then compounded by another Cabinet member Michael Gove, after he said he did not know why Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran when she was arrested.
But the No10 spokesman slapped down the Environment Secretary, saying: "The Government's position on this is clear: She was there on holiday. It wasn't for any other purpose.
"The Foreign Secretary reiterated that in his conversation with the Iranian Foreign Minister last week."
The spokesman also said Mrs May had been involved in Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case "from the outset" and regards it as a "priority".
They confirmed she has raised it with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on at least two occasions, most recently at the UN General Assembly in September, he said.