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Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has repeatedly denied having a hand in the delay

After months of deadlock, Britain’s long-running public inquiry into the Iraq war has reached tentative agreement on the part-disclosure of sensitive communications between Tony Blair and George W Bush.


An impasse over the release of discussions between the men who were British prime minister and US president at the time has stymied the release of the inquiry’s findings – leading to accusations that the current UK government and Mr Blair were seeking to frustrate the process .




Open evidence sessions – which drew sometimes sensational testimony from figures across the political spectrum – closed in February 2011. A final report by Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry’s chairman, had been expected early this year at the latest.


Mr Blair has repeatedly denied having had any hand in the delay, though Whitehall mandarins have given warning that divulging the contents of top-level communications with the US president would do lasting damage to relations with Washington.




In a letter to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, released on Thursday , Sir John said he was “pleased . . . that we have now reached agreement on the principles that will underpin disclosure”.


The publication of such communications was “vital to the public understanding”, said Sir John.




The inquiry agreed to accept information revealing only the “gist” of key conversations, however, with occasional direct quotation that will be kept to “the minimum necessary”.


“Consideration will be based on the principle that our use of this material should not reflect President Bush’s views,” Sir John’s letter added.

After having been told in 2011 that there was “no prospect” of full details or even redacted transcripts of conversations between the two leaders being released, Sir John last summer requested limited summary information on 25 written notes and 130 records.

“We have concluded that they are sufficient to explain our conclusions,” said Sir John.




The inquiry will have to consult extensively with all of the parties concerned – including Mr Blair and Mr Bush – before any information is handed over. The parties will be given the right to reply in a secret procedure known by British mandarins as “Maxwellisation”.





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