UK & World News

  • 29 May 2014, 14:52

Iraq Inquiry: Bush Blair Notes To Be Published

Details of conversations between Tony Blair and George W Bush about the Iraq conflict will be released - but not in full, the Government has said.

Instead only the "gists and quotes" of the correspondence between the two men will be made available to the inquiry into the handling of the Iraq war, headed by Sir John Chilcot.

Reaching an agreement on the disclosure of the documents has long been blamed for the four-year delay in the publication of the Chilcot report, which was commissioned by Gordon Brown when he was prime minister in 2009.

Earlier this week Mr Blair said he resented the claims that he was responsible for the delay of the report. He told the Radio 4 Today programme: "The sooner it is published the better from my perspective as it allows me to go and make the arguments."

A letter from the inquiry to Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood said: "Detailed consideration of gists and quotes requested by the Inquiry from communications between the UK Prime Minister and the President of the United States has now begun.

"It is not yet clear how long that will take but the Inquiry and the Government should work to complete the task as soon as possible."

Under a legal precedent known as the "Maxwellisation" process, Mr Blair and Mr Bush will be permitted to see the report before it is published and will be allowed to respond.

When asked why reaching an agreement on the issued had taken so long a Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Disclosure of these documents raises difficult issues.

"There is a high expectation of confidentiality in discussions between heads of state/government. Discussions between the Prime Minister and US President represent a particularly sensitive channel of communication.

"Disclosure of this information is not an easy undertaking."

The spokesman said the agreement that had been reached now allowed for the declassification and the publicatino of the material the "inquiry believes it needs to explain its conclusions".

David Cameron told Sky News earlier this month that he was expecting the Chilcot report to be published by the end of the year and voiced frustration at the delay.

Mr Cameron said:"This is independent inquiry. I want to see it published soon. My understanding is that they will be able to publish before the end of the year and I very much hope they can deliver on that timetable."