WASHINGTON -- The Federal Open Market Committee has agreed to release transcripts of its meetings to the public, but only those that are more than five years old, the Federal Reserve Board announced yesterday.

The transcripts also will be edited to omit sensitive information, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said in a letter to House Banking Committee Chairman Henry Gonzalez, D-Tex., who has been pressuring the Fed to release transcripts of the meetings in which monetary policy is decided.

"The editing will eliminate no matter of substance; it will correct obvious errors of transcription and smooth out syntax that interferes with understanding," Greenspan said in the letter dated yesterday. "In addition, we will redact confidential information obtained from or about individuals, businesses, and foreign central banks."

Greenspan's letter said the FOMC, which agreed to the new policy yesterday, also considered several possibilities regarding timely release of future transcripts, but came to no decision. The FOMC will hold a "special meeting" next month to consider the matter further, he said. But a date for the meeting was not announced.

"Because the issues raised by these alternatives are complex and go to the heart of the committee's ability to conduct monetary policy, the committee will need to consider them further." Greenspan said.

Gonzalez, who has been pushing vigorously for reform of the Fed, requested the release of all unedited FOMC minutes dating back to March 1976.

Greenspan and all other FOMC members at various times expressed concern over such a move because they contended it would hinder the Fed's ability to carry out monetary policy.

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