Release Of Bush Blair Memos Vetoed

The public disclosure of a number of secret memos between former Prime Minister Blair and ex US President Bush, sent during the run up to the Iraq invasion, has been blocked.

The potentially politically volatile memos were determined to be made public as part of the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry into the war by the inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot. However, it has been announced today that the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell has blocked the release of the documents, claiming that future prime ministers will not speak freely to US presidents if the correspondence is made available.

Responding to Sir O'Donnell's decision during the reopening of the public evidence sessions yesterday, Sir Chilcot said: "The papers we hold include the notes which Prime Minister Blair sent to President Bush and the records of their discussions. The Inquiry recognises the privileged nature of those exchanges but, exceptionally, we sought disclosure of key extracts, which illuminate Prime Minister Blair’s positions at critical points.

"The Inquiry is disappointed that the Cabinet Secretary was not willing to accede to its request. This means that in a narrow but important area the Inquiry may not always be able to publish as fully as it would wish the evidential basis for some of its comments and conclusions."

The Independent revealed last year that a secret deal had been struck between the inquiry and Gordon Brown in November 2009, giving Sir Gus the final veto over the release of sensitive documents.

The Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, is to appear at the Inquiry's for the second time on Friday January 21.

Correspondence between Sir Chilcott and Sir O'Donnel also released today has revealed that the inquiry chairman believes the withholding of the documents will significantly hamper the inquiries examination of Mr Blair's decision to take Britain to war during Friday's hearing.

According to The Independent this morning, the private memos sent between Tony Blair and President George Bush contain promises by Mr Blair to Mr Bush about Britain's readiness to join any military action in Iraq.

One memo, which is understood to contain an assurance that Britain would "be there" if the US decided to go ahead with an attack, predated an assurance to the House of Commons by the then Prime Minister that "no decision had been made about military action".

It is believed that this and other revelations contained within the memos are central to the inquiries findings, and their non-disclosure could seriously compromise the impact of the report.


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