Blair's letters to Bush in run up to Iraq War will NEVER be published after ex-PM does deal to only release the 'gist' of notes
- Agreement reached to publish 'gist and quotes' of notes between leaders
- Material includes 25 notes and more than 130 records of conversations
- Chilcot report could now be published in the run up to next year's election
A breakthrough was reached today in the Iraq war inquiry - which could see a report into the controversial conflict published before the next election.
After months of disagreement a deal was finally struck to publish only the 'gist and quotes' from sensitive material detailing discussions between Tony Blair and George Bush in the run up to the invasion.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, Mr Blair's closest official in Number 10 in the run-up to the war, agreed that some information from 25 notes and more than 130 records of conversations between the former Prime Minister and then US president could be published.
Tony Blair faced hostile questioning over his role taking Britain to war against Iraq when he appeared in front of the Chilcot inquiry in January 2011
Sir John Chilcot (pictured) is now expected to publish his long-awaited report into the conflict ahead of the next election
Sir John Chilcot's inquiry completed public hearings in 2011, but publication of its report is understood to have been held back by negotiations over the publication of private communications. Officials said a timing has still not been set for the date of publication.
Earlier this week, Mr Blair insisted he was not the reason for the delay in the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry report as demands for its swift release increased.
'It certainly isn't me who is holding it up," he told the BBC. "The sooner it is published the better from my perspective as it allows me to go and make the arguments.'
Letters must be sent out to individuals facing criticism in the report before it is published under the 'Maxwellisation' process to give them an opportunity to respond.
Once that is complete, the report can be finalised and sent to Prime Minister David Cameron, who has previously said he hopes it will be published by the end of the year.
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 Inquiry's report is published as soon as possible and the Government is doing everything it can to facilitate that.'
In a letter to Sir Jeremy, the inquiry chairman said the material - limited to 'quotes or gists' - was 'vital' to the public's understanding of the inquiry's conclusions.
The hold up in the publication of the Chilcot report is down to a disagreement over what can be published from the notes and conversations between George Bush and Tony Blair in the run up to the war
But he set out how the agreement on disclosing the information 'should not reflect President Bush's views' and direct quotations will kept to a minimum.
Sir John told the Cabinet Secretary: 'I appreciate that the Inquiry's requests for disclosure raised difficult issues of long-standing principle, which have taken some months to resolve: recognition of the wholly exceptional nature of this Inquiry has allowed that to happen.
'My colleagues and I judge that this material is vital to the public understanding of the Inquiry's conclusions.'
He added: 'Following our recent agreement on the principles for disclosure of material describing communication between the prime minister and the president of the United States, detailed consideration of the gists and quotes requested by the Inquiry has now begun.
'Consideration will be based on the principle that our 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.'