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United Kingdom - Iraq Inquiry told to "protect US interests"

Alex Plough, 30 November 2010, 17.07 GMT

The Ministry of Defence decided to influence the official inquiry into the Iraq War in order to "protect US interests", according to a classified US diplomatic cable released by whistleblower website Wikileaks.

A dispatch sent by Ellen Tauscher, the US Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, describes a conversation with Jon Day, the MOD Director General for security policy, in which he "promised that the UK had ’put measures in place to protect your [US] interests’ during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq War.

Day made the admission in late September 2009, during one of a series of meetings between Tauscher and senior British officials attending the London P5 Conference on Confidence Building Measures Towards Nuclear Disarmament.

The UK delegation also included David Miliband, then Foreign Secretary, although there is no evidence in the cable that he was aware of Day’s assurances.

On 6 January 2010, Day was called as a witness to the Iraq Inquiry where he was questioned about the MOD’s policy decisions from 2007 to 2009.

Day’s apparent knowledge of Whitehall interference into the Inquiry prior to his testimony contradicts the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s claim that it would be both "fully independent of Government" and "unprecedented" in scope.

At the news conference launching the Inquiry, chairman Sir John Chilcot was asked by Guardian Journalist Andrew Sparrow if the panel planned on taking evidence from American officials.

Chilcot replied, “Discussions and evidence sessions are not necessarily the same thing, and of course we have no power to compel witnesses here, let alone people in foreign governments. Nonetheless, I accept the thrust behind your question, that the Anglo-American relationship is one of the most central parts of this inquiry, and how that was conducted is something that we need to get a very strong understanding of.”

Between 17 and 21 May 2010, members of the committee held a series meetings in Washington DC with officials from the former and current US administrations. However, as the meetings were not formal evidence sessions, there is no published record of the discussions.

The Iraq Inquiry plans to deliver its final report at the end of the year.