British government ordered to reveal cabinet minutes on Iraq war

Other News Materials 26 February 2008 19:30 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) -  The British government was Tuesday ordered to release the minutes of crucial cabinet meetings in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Britain's Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, said the papers should be released under the Freedom of Information Act because of the "gravity and controversial nature" of the discussions.

The unprecedented move is interesting as it affects two cabinet meetings in March, 2003, where the legality of going to war - without a second United Nations resolution - was discussed.

The former government of Tony Blair always insisted that Peter Goldsmith, the former Attorney General, had ruled that Britain's joining of the invasion of Iraq was legal.

Up to now, the cabinet office at Downing Street had refused publication on the grounds that the papers were exempt from disclosure as they related to the formulation of government policy and ministerial communications.

But Thomas ruled that the public interest outweighed the interest in withholding the information.

Commentators said that while publication of the minutes might not reveal anything sensational, Tuesday's move nonetheless set a precedent.

"The discussion won't stop there. There will be pressure for more," said former cabinet minister Clare Short, who resigned over the Iraq war in May, 2003.