We're a step closer to knowing what Blair promised to Bush - but only the 'gist'

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By Chris Ship: Deputy Political Editor

Tony Blair and George Bush in 2005.
Tony Blair and George W Bush in 2005. Credit: Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press/Press Association Images

After months of deadlock between those in charge of the Chilcot Inquiry and Whitehall officials, there is now agreement on the release of secret information and conversations in the run up to the Iraq war.

The wrangling has centred on 25 notes and 130 records of conversations between the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the then US President, George W Bush.

It clears the way for the report to be published at some point later this year.

The Iraq Inquiry is the official examination into the run up to and the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

It's headed by Sir John Chilcot who began his inquiry in 2009.

There have been criticisms of the delay and some have blamed Mr Blair for frustrating the process. He, however, vehemently denies this accusation.

Sir John Chilcot.
Sir John Chilcot's inquiry completed public hearings in 2011. Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Nonetheless, the progress is not as great as it could have been.

The inquiry will only be able to publish the "gist" of the conversations between the two leaders - not the transcripts of them.

And Sir John Chilcot has agreed not to publish material which reflects President Bush's views. So we will find out the "gist" of what Mr Blair said to Mr Bush - but not what Mr Bush said to Mr Blair.

The disclosure of information will also be kept to the "minimum necessary."

However, Sir John has acknowledged the information should be suffice for the Inquiry to "explain its conclusions."

Once the detail has been agreed on the publication of Mr Blair's and Mr Bush's communications, the inquiry will move to the next phase - which is sending its conclusions to those it is likely to criticise.

Tony Blair is expected to be top of that list.

The Foreign Secretary at the time Jack Straw will also be on it.

So we will be a step closer to finding out what promises Tony Blair made to George Bush - not word for word - but at least the gist.

Read: Bush-Blair Iraq talks disclosure agreed