Gist of Tony Blair’s talks with George Bush over Iraq war to be published
Agreement between the Chilcot inquiry and government to publish some secret material comes after months of deadlock.
The gist of conversations between Tony Blair and George Bush is likely to be published as part of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, after the government reached a deal in principle to make some secret information public.
The agreement between the inquiry and the Cabinet Office, which was announced on Thursday, comes after months of deadlock over what will be released, as politicians blamed each other for causing delays. Blair has repeatedly denied being responsible for the blockage, while Nick Clegg called for those likely to be criticised to accept public scrutiny and help move the process on.
The inquiry announced that agreement had been reached on the type of “gists and quotes” would be released from 25 notes and 130 records of conversations between Blair and Bush. No decision has been taken, however, on exactly which ones will be published. There is also now an agreement to release a small number of extracts from the most critical minutes of more than 200 cabinet-level discussions.
The Chilcot inquiry had requested the full content of correspondence between Blair and Bush, but appears to have watered down its demands and accepted that the gist of the conversations will be “sufficient to explain our conclusions”. It may also be allowed to publish some quotes, but this will be kept to “the minimum necessary to enable the inquiry to articulate its conclusions”.
The inquiry also accepts that the use of material from the letters “should not reflect President Bush’s views”.
Sir John Chilcot, who is leading the inquiry, has now written to the government to “record his pleasure” that agreement had been reached on an issue that had “raised difficult issues of long-standing principle”.
The inquiry’s website 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.”