Britain says ‘no’ to publication of private Iraq notes

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

LONDON - The British government has refused to authorise the publication of crucial private exchanges on the Iraq war between former US president George W. Bush and former British premier Tony Blair, an inquiry investigating the conflict said Tuesday.

The refusal by the head of Britain’s civil service was made public just a few days before Blair was due to appear before the so-called Iraq Inquiry to give evidence for a second time.

“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,” Inquiry chairman John Chilcot said.

The notes, which were exchanged in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, are believed to give a clear indication that Blair committed British forces to the war effort long before the parliamentary process in Britain, as well as UN discussions, were completed.

In his refusal to declassify the material, Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell wrote: “My view is that the public interest is not best served by their release. I judge that their release would, or would be likely to, damage the Britain’s international relations.”

Britain attached “particular importance” to protecting the channel of communication between British prime ministers and US presidents.

Blair, who was prime minister from 1997 to 2007, was due to appear before the inquiry Friday. During his first appearance a year ago, he delivered a strong defence of his decision to join the US-led campaign.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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