POLITICS
30/12/2013 11:56 GMT | Updated 31/12/2013 18:43 GMT

Secret Iraq War Talks Between Tony Blair And George Bush 'To Be Published'

The government is preparing to publish more than 100 classified documents detailing private conversations between Tony Blair and George W Bush in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, it has been reported

According to the Daily Mail, The Independent and The Guardian, Whitehall has agreed to declassify notes, records of telephone calls and cabinet discussions held as Blair and Bush plotted the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussain.

The move clears the way for the Iraq Inquiry, set up under the chairmanship of Sir John Chilcot in 2009, to finally produce its report into the decision to go to war. If the documents had been withheld, the report would have to either be heavily redacted or conclusions based on the letters would have to be removed.

It has been suggested that Blair is likely to be criticised over the way he led Britain to war alongside the United States. A senior Whitehall source told The Guardian: "In the new year it seems the Chilcot inquiry is going to be published. Everyone will be assuming: bad hair day for Tony Blair and Jack Straw. The Conservatives can't say or do very much given that Iain Duncan Smith was further ahead than Blair. But the Conservatives are irrelevant to it."

According to the Mail, the decision to publish the secret exchanges between the prime minister and president was made by cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood - who had previously blocked the move on the grounds of national security.

A Whitehall source told the paper that a lot more documents would now be made public than had been expected.

The source said: "There is an ongoing process of declassification, which is attempting to strike a balance to ensure you are not setting a legal precedent that could oblige you to publish other documents in the future or damage national security."

The former cabinet secretary Lord O'Donnell told Chilcot had also argued that releasing Blair's notes would damage Britain's relations with the US and were of no public interest.

In November the government was forced to deny it was having to keep Blair's notes secret under pressure from the United States. A Cabinet Office spokesperson insisted that "any suggestion that the US has a veto is wrong" while acknowledging that "exchanges between a PM and President of the United States represent a particularly privileged channel of communication".