THE ‘gist’ of the conversations between Tony Blair and George Bush ahead of the Iraq war will be published, it has been announced.
But transcripts and full notes of conversations will remain secret, at the request of the Government, the UK’s Chilcot Inquiry says.
The Inquiry and Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has paved the way for the report to be published, which has been delayed due to wrangling over what should be included.
The inquiry has been given access to records of talks between the two leaders in the run-up to war but is being prevented by the UK Government from publishing them in its final report, even after offering to leave out sensitive details.
Concern was raised by the Government that publishing the full documents and transcripts could prejudice future relations between the two countries.
The Inquiry has instead been granted permission to “disclose quotes or gists of the content” to help explain its conclusions, Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot explained in a letter to Sir Jeremy.
Documents include 25 notes from Mr Blair to Mr Bush and more than 130 records of conversations between the former Prime Minister and US President.
The report is expected to be published later this year.
Sir John said in a letter: “Considerations will be based on the principle that use of this material should not reflect President Bush’s views. We have also agreed that the use of direct quotation from the documents should be the minimum necessary to enable the Inquiry to articulate its conclusions.”
The Inquiry, which is examining the UK’s part in military action against Saddam Hussein, began in 2009 and its last public hearings took place in 2011. It has cost more than £7million so far.
Although the Inquiry team, led by Sir John, has never set a target date or deadline for publication, it is believed the timetable has slipped on occasions.
Before publication can happen, letters must be sent out to individuals facing criticism in the report, under what is known as the "Maxwellisation" process, to give them an opportunity to respond.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq by British and US forces, on the pretext that it had “weapons of mass destruction”, has been the subject of several inquiries in the UK, including the Butler report into intelligence failings.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The Government is pleased that agreement on a way forward on both cabinet papers and UK-US exchanges has now been reached with the inquiry.
“This allows for the declassification and publication of the material the inquiry believes it needs to explain its conclusions.
“Resolving this issue has taken longer than originally hoped but these are sensitive issues.
“The UK-US head of Government channel is very important and must be handled sensitively.
“The Government and the Inquiry are working to ensure the report is published as soon as possible, and the Government is doing everything it can to facilitate that.”