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FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, July 30, 2009, John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq Inquiry as the inquiry gets underway in London, looking at background details and the decision making process during the run-up to the Iraq War. The Iraq Inquiry announced Thursday May 29, 2014, that its report has been delayed for several years by negotiations over the inclusion of classified material including details of exchanges between Britain's then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush, before the invasion of Iraq, but the full versions of the conversations will remain secret. Although today's announcement made clear that the British inquiry into decisions and mistakes in the planning and execution of the war will be made public, it is still unclear when Chilcot's report will be released. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, FILE)
Iraq report to include ‘gist’ of Bush-Blair talks

First Published May 29 2014 05:42 pm • Last Updated May 29 2014 07:03 pm

London • British officials have agreed to make public some details of the exchanges between then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush before the invasion of Iraq — but the full versions of the conversations will remain secret.

A British inquiry into decisions and mistakes in the planning and execution of the war began in 2009. Its report has been delayed for several years by negotiations over the inclusion of classified material, including 25 notes and 130 records of conversations between Blair and Bush ahead of the U.S.-led 2003 invasion.

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On Thursday, the inquiry’s chief, retired civil servant John Chilcot, confirmed that a deal had been reached to publish "gists" and selected quotes from the messages.

He said none of the material made public would "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," Chilcot wrote in a letter to Britain’s top civil servant, Jeremy Heywood.

The British government has resisted publishing the material because it would compromise the confidentiality of the leaders’ discussions. Heywood’s department, the Cabinet Office, said Thursday that "resolving this issue has taken longer than originally hoped but these are sensitive issues. The U.K./U.S. head of government channel is very important and must be handled sensitively."

The war, in which 179 U.K. troops died, triggered large public protests in Britain and shadowed the final years of Blair’s premiership.

It remains a hugely divisive subject. Critics of the invasion accuse the Blair government of exaggerating intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction to make the case for war. No such weapons were ever found.

It’s still unclear when Chilcot’s report will be released. Individuals who are criticized in the document will be given the chance to respond before it is published.




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