Chilcot report stalled by row over notes sent from Blair to Bush

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Richard Norton-Taylor

Tony Blair receives the Congressional Gold Medal of Honour from George 'Dubya' Bush
Tony Blair receives the Congressional Gold Medal of Honour from George ‘Dubya’ Bush

Inquiry into Iraq war wants to release notes from Blair to Bush and records of conversations between Blair or Brown and Bush

The government’s persistent refusal to reveal what Tony Blair told George Bush in the runup to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is blocking any further progress on the long-awaited report of the inquiry into the war, it has emerged.

The inquiry wants to release 25 notes from Blair to President Bush; more than 130 records of conversations between either Blair or Gordon Brown and Bush, and information relating to 200 Cabinet discussions, its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, has told the prime minister.

Chilcot has told David Cameron that without a decision on what he has previously described as documents central to the inquiry, he cannot go ahead with the so-called “Maxwellisation” process.

This is the procedure whereby individuals the inquiry panel intend to criticise are given a chance to respond to the proposed criticisms before the report is finally published.

Blair is one of those most likely to be criticised for his handling of the crisis that led to the US-led invasion of Iraq with British support.

He and others were expected to be handed critical draft passages of the report this summer. But fierce opposition by Whitehall mandarins led by Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, to the release of the documents has meant that the whole process is stuck in its tracks.

The inquiry panel has agreed the inquiry “should not issue those provisional criticisms without a clear understanding of what supporting evidence will be agreed for publication”, Chilcot has told Cameron.

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