The British government agreed yesterday to give extracts of letters from Tony Blair to George W. Bush to an inquiry into the Iraq war, overcoming the main hurdle to publication of the long-awaited report.
The probe will receive "gists and quotes" of communications from former prime minister Blair to ex-US president Bush in the run-up to the conflict in 2003, inquiry chief John Chilcot said.
But Bush's replies will not be included in the report, which is examining Britain's involvement in the war, Chilcot said.
Chilcot, himself a former civil servant, said "detailed consideration" of the agreed material had already begun. "Consideration will be based on the principle that our use of this material should not reflect President Bush's view," he said.
The inquiry was set up in 2009 and was expected to report in 2010. The last public hearings took place in 2011.
But disagreements over the publication of some 25 written notes from Blair to Bush and more than 130 records of conversations have been the biggest factor in delaying the findings of the inquiry.
There had been fears that Blair - who as prime minister committed British forces to the US-led invasion of Iraq after forming a close bond with then-president Bush - and the US administration would block the release of the confidential papers.