LONDON — British authorities have refused to publish notes that Tony Blair sent to President George W. Bush before the Iraq war, prompting a complaint yesterday from the chief of a public inquiry into the divisive conflict.
Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, head of the civil service, turned down the Iraq Inquiry’s request for the communications between the former prime minister and Bush to be declassified and made public. The notes deal with extensive correspondence between Blair and Bush during the period leading up to the US-led 2003 invasion.
O’Donnell declined, saying publication “would, or would be likely to, damage the UK’s international relations.’’
John Chilcot, Iraq Inquiry chairman, and the other members of his panel have seen the correspondence.
Chilcot said yesterday that the inquiry was “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,’’ Chilcot said.
Chilcot wrote to O’Donnell last month asking for the documents to be declassified, arguing that many of the principals — including Blair, Bush, and two of Blair’s top aides, chief of staff Jonathan Powell, and communications director Alastair Campbell — had revealed details about some of their material in their published memoirs.